Course: Psychology and sociology of language
Do Animals have language?
Language Is the medium of communication and the question arises that apart from humans, is any of the other living organism communicate, if they do so, than what type of communication is that. Do they have a certain kind of syntactic structure or grammatical approach. In many studies of insects it is shown that they posses certain of physical movement and gesture through which they communicate.
Communication is the transmission of signal that conveys information, often such that sender benefits from recipient’s response (Pearce 1987)
There is a difference between communicative signal and informative signals. Communicative signals have an element of intentionality in them whereas in informative the gesture might be all about the to inform some danger or pleasant situation.
Aunts rely on chemical messengers called Pheromones and honey bees produce waggle dance to point out the place where they found nectar. There is also an example of monkey that produce ‘chutter’ sound to warn other that snake is nearby. They have also other signal when leopard or eagle is near to them.
There is some confusion about whether whales and dolphins have language or not .Many question arise what actually a language is and what are its parameters , do the communicative system of animals rely upto the parameters of language definition.
“Human speech is an artificial system of signs and symbols with rules for forming intelligible communication for use e.g in a computer”
(Chamber Twentieth Century Dictionary, 1977)
According to definition of language , it’s a discrete combination of words that are arranged in pattern according to a specific rule , which gives meaning of that information or communication . Human language is consist of phonetics , syntax, semantics , pragmatics etc The study of sounds of humans , arrangement of words,logical concern of meaning of words, the way context conveys meaning, respectively and all these things are absent in communication of animals .
Can animals learn language
Parrot can be taught to make voice like humans.Alex was taught about 80 words in which there were names of object , verb and adjectives . He could even understand the short sequenced phrases (Pepperberg 1981 1983 1987).
Another experiment was also done to two dolphins . that was totally on sign language and some time by produced sounds under the water so they could comprehend the sound or not , but these experiments were only done to see the animal’s ability to learn the language not to judge them to produce the language .But to know about their learning of language it is important to see the production of word out what is learned . So the syntactic ability of dolphins was limited . Many experiment were done to prove the statement can animal learn language and most of them were also done to nearest animal to human kind , Monkey.As chimpanzees are more intelligent and social . When a human child is being taught word with meaning , a proper syntactic structure was taught to them, they not only comprehend those meaning but also produce new words or phrases .
Intelligence of animals
The most important key of animals specially chimpanzees is that their learning from past experiences, from trial and errors proposed by Edward Thorndike (1898) experimenting upon a cat and further learning by conditioning proposed by B.F. Skinner(1938). These experiments show the learning ability and picking up chunks from surrounding , ability of animals.
To know that whether animal have language proper like human, so at first the properties of human language should be considered.
According to linguistic , displacement in a language is talking about those things ,person or anything that is remote or not present . Human can talk about past and present whereas animals lack this ability.
In linguistic arbitrariness is the general case that there is no “natural’ connection between linguist for and its meaning. We can assume appearance of dog by looking at that word dog but there is no natural iconic relation of the word with the hairy, fierce creature.
Human create new words and phrases by manipulating the previous one and have a good command on this and this is known as productivity. The potential number of utterances in any human language is infinite . Honeybee in her movement tells about the location of nectar , the motion is in round form and in horizontal form so when nectar was placed high , she was not able to locate the position , so it tells that the element of productivity is not so common in animals
According to Karl Von
” the bees have no word for up in there language”
The transmission of language from one generation to other is known as cultural transmission as we inherit physical features from parents. The baby of English speaker brought up by Spanish people in their country would possibly speak Spanish instead of English it is the cultural transmission ,but kitten would meow where ever she could be placed.
With a limited set of discrete sounds, they can produce a large number of combination of sounds,with different meanings. Although dog may seem to produce ‘woof’ (I’m happy to see you) but not be able to produce ‘oowf’ or ‘foow’. These properties of human language make them distinguish from other creatures .
Physical differences between human and animals for speech production
The animal that is nearest to human being is chimpanzee. If we examine the speech production areas of both living organism . we can find out that there are vast differences in the jaw line of both.
Link : http://slideplayer.com/slide/4266582/The structure of lips of human are parallel whereas the lips of chimpanzees are wide and lower lip is lower lip is outwards as compared to the upper lip. The area of larynx in human is in the throat whereas in chimpanzees its in the middle of throat and mouth . There is a gap between soft palate and vocal fold in humans but there is no gap in chimpanzees.
There is a Broca area in the brain of human that is specified for the speech production and its not present in any other animal , that is the thing that makes a huge difference in speech production and language of humans and animals . The structure of articulatory apparatus appear not changed about 60,000 year that of apes. The capability of thinking of apes is very much similar to that of a child but apart from those linguistic abilities.
Gua and Viki
The very first experiment about language production was done by Kellogg and Kellogg (1933) by the method of ‘cross fostering’ or we can call it cross nurturing.
Cross fostering is a process in which children are taken from their biological parents and are nurtured by surrogate parents . A female chimpanzee was taken for the experiment and was given a name Gua and was brought up by Kellogg along with their own son. But this experiment was not very successful because Gua was not able to produce distinct audible words but she was able to understand few. It was not the only experiment , another experiment by Hayes (1951) was done to a female chimpanzee that was also brought up along with a human child but after 6 years it was also unsuccessful because Viki was only able to produce four words by movement of her lips in attempt to say ‘mama’, ‘papa’, ‘cup’ and ‘up’. By some more efforts she was a little bit able to understand words and combinations of words. Through these experiments it was cleared that vocal tract of chimpanzee is different from that of human beings. After sticking to this point the experiment which were done from sign language.
Well known example of teaching a chimp a language is that of Washoe . she was a female chimpanzee and was also brought up like a human child . she was taught everything that a human child is being taught . she was one year old when she was caught , she was given every type of training ,such as eating, toilet, playing and other social chore .
(Gardner & Gardner 1969, 1975).
Most important feature of her training was American sign language .This is the language which is almost used by physically impaired people like vocal and hearing impaired people. Sign language have its words and syntax . Dialect of ASL is spoken in many areas of America and in many deaf communities , it is also used as ASL based creoles . It was originated in 19th century. This language have phonemic elements which are movement of face and hands. Washoe was first non-human who learned human language. She died at the age of 42. Her abilities were that she learned 85 signs at the age of 4 and was able to comprehend even more. She learned 150-200 signs in her later years.
(Fouts , Shapiro& O’Neil 1978)
Those signs which she learned were taken from syntactic structure like noun, verbs, adjectives and pronouns. She was excellent in learning and producing sign like a child. She learned the sign ‘smell’ for flower and ‘hurt’ for tattoo. She was able to produce new sign when she does not know what to do in that condition. When she first saw duck, she generated the word ‘water bird’ and many other words . she was able to differentiate between words. A kind of cultural transmission was seen in this experiment. Washoe adopted a child chimpanzee and taught her sign language. But it was difficult to find that it was the language that Washoe was been taught or other sophisticated one.
( Fouts & Van Cantfort 1989, Hirsch & Fouts 1982)
Another experiment with different feature and technique was done to another female chimpanzee named Sarah. She was taught symbol language , a symbol languages is a mode of communication in which thoughts are conveyed in the form of words, images, objects, body language and sounds. She was given plastic token and was trained in laboratory. She used those token very successfully and arranged them to make a request . she also learned grammar and produced syntactically complex sentences and she also talked about language it self but latter on it was doubted that it may only the case that she is only working reward based theory proposed by Skinner (behaviorist language acquisition).
(Premack 1971, 1976, 1985,1986)
According to Chomsky the ability of language acquisition is innate . In his theory of nativist he proposed that human are born with the innate ability to acquire language , while animals don’t have this ability .
He also talked about universal grammar ability innateness in his language acquisition device.
Nim chimpsky was a chimpanzee who was taught a language based on ASL , she learned 125 signs and with utterance she manipulated them into more than 20000 interpretations in just two years. But long utterances were confusing and had a kind of confusions in them like ‘banana me eat. Banana eat’, that is not displaying the real utterance of syntactic structure of any language. Many of utterances were repetition of signs which were trained.
(Terrace, Petitto, Sander and Bever 1979)
Later on it was pointed out that the training which is given to Nim might have limited his linguistic abilities.
(O’Sullivan and Yeager1989)
There are many differences between human child and a ape regarding language behavior .
There no proper syntactic structure and the use of languages is only for time being , while in human child there is clear syntactic structure and a proper use of displacement Ape can only comprehend few combinations of syntactics units but human child are proficient in this ability. Apes are trained to use the language but human children are not trained to use the language . human child immediately sense the ill formed sentence while ape can not.
(Fodor, Bever and Garrett 1974)
Early studies were mostly on the chimpanzees of different breed like Pan troglodytes who are less intelligent than Bonobos (Pan paniscus) who are more social, intellectual and have more communicative abilities than apes. Their behavior is more like children and have cognitive abilities like them. They do not need any kind of reinforcement to learn any thing the theory of leaning through conditioning is less applicable to them. They weigh less, shorter head and have a grace able body as compared to apes. There is a kind of cultural transmission in them Kanzi learned thing or signs from mother Matata .Matata was a sample of search for psychologist and also a worker their as a typist when Kanzi born she took him daily their with her , The experiments the were been done to Matata had an impact on Kanzi as well . Kanzi was not trained as matata was being taught. Matata was sent to some other place but Kanzi was kept their , he was two and half year old at that time.
Like the child of an immigrant, Kanzi soon showed he had absorbed just what Matata had resisted. Within a week he spontaneously began to use the keyboard to make his desires known, But he also appeared to name objects even when he did not want the object. Savage-Rumbaugh and Sevcik decided not to train Kanzi at all, but to see if he could continue to soak up the keyboard “language” during daily interactions with researchers, who talked to him, using both lexigrams and speech, as if he understood. In other words, they treated Kanzi like parents treat a preverbal child constantly hearing language. Kanzi’s keyboard helped in this effort by generating synthesized speech to sound out the English word for each lexigram.
By the time Kanzi learned many symbols as he wanted to go somewhere he points the things that belong to that place . for example he wanted to go to place where strawberries grow so he call strawberry. His time of acquisition of language was much slower than a human child. It was later on argued that chimpanzee’s abilities are always underestimated because of the comparison with a well grown child of human. There was also no use of morphology in Kanzi.
If we compare this experiment with those of previous one can assume that Kanzi was much better in learning language as to others.
New techniques to teach language
The ability of arbitrariness is fundamental to human being but this is less in other living organisms like we can assume greenery by looking at word tree and other such like words but a pigeon who is taught by meth of reward can not assume thing just by looking at the words. But they can be trained. By examining their puckering behavior one can suggest that they would response to the word ‘tee’ more than word ‘horse’ because that is much resembling to the tree .Psycholinguist agree on the point that for experimenting the use of thing s to teach them is much appropriate as compared to the signs because they have much impact. Like when a child is being asked by showing the picture of apple what is that he answer very smoothly ‘apple’ because he knew that , and that’s just because he was acquainted with that. So as the case with animals if they are acquainted with the things they are asked they would better answer them as compared to signs. For example in the case of Kanzi if he was acquainted with the real things like banana and apple he would real suggest that as compared to signs which he learned.
The comparison of apes and children is still the issues and answers can never be cleared. Many linguists and psychologist tried to answer but ended up with ambiguous answers. One of the major problem of them is which group of chimpanzees should be compared and of which age . Because age matters in learning and acquiring ability. Although there are very much similarities in human children intellectual abilities and that of apes but vast differences are also hurdles which are also not ignored.
Other problem is to face the consequences and expenses to carry out the research . which is way another difficult approach.
Importance of the issue
As language has a major concern with cognitive ability and intellectual capability, so to understand any of the issue regarding physique , studding this capability is important. Study of language gives us insight of any creature about their abilities . It differentiate one creature from another like as a different language makes a difference between two communities. These type of discussion clarifies differences between human language and chattering of that vervet . It also tells about the physical differences in different creature. Like in human case there is a specified area which only for language production and if that get disturbed whole human language get perturbed .”Some components of language are specie specific “.
In a discussion Chomsky argued that only human have device which enables them to produce language.
The question is still tangling in the air that ‘ do animals have language ‘, this statement have many proponents and antagonist . The physical structure, the vocal tract of chimpanzee is different from that of human and the absence of Broca area point towards that they don’t posses the ability of language . But the experiments show a different image. In case of Kanzi it left with ambiguity whether animal posses the ability or just training is the case .
Some suggest the innate hard wired ability of human to produce language and say these linguistic abilities are absent in chimps.
(Premack 1985 , 1986, 1990)
There is a difference between learning a language and acquiring a language , Human is gifted with the abilities to acquire the language , most importantly every normal human’s first language is acquired and learning of might be second and third .
So her we can conclude that human acquire language with innate abilities whereas animal learn language.