Which Species Has a Language Most Like Human Language

Topics: Semantics, Linguistics, Semiotics Pages: 4 (1142 words) Published: April 13, 2013
SECTION 2

Option A

Which Species Has a Language Most Like Human Language

In order to understand how our ancestors have communicated and how it developed into modern language, scientists studied communication of various animals. To differentiate human language from other systems of communication, a number of parameters have been developed known as Design Features of language (Bauer, 2006, pp.7-17). This essay, will look at five of the more important design features and use them as guidelines for establishing which species – vervet monkey, dolphin or dog, communicates in a way that is most similar to human language.

The design features to be discussed are: Semanticity, displacement/freedom from stimulus, productivity, dual articulation/duality of patterning and discreteness. Semanticity means that components of the messages are related to the real world in a fixed and specific way. Displacement or freedom from stimulus is the ability to talk about an object or event without it actually being there or happening at the time, for example, if something happened yesterday or if it is in another room. Productivity is being able to construct new messages on the basis of already known components. Dual articulation/duality of patterning means that messages can consist of separate elements; sentences are made of words, which are made up of sounds. And finally, discreteness, which indicates that these elements have contrastive, individual meaning (Bauer, 2006, pp.7-17).

Now lets analyse how the communication systems of the three animal species correspond with these design features. A significant limitation in this comparison is that, in the examples provided, the vervet monkeys are communicating with members of their own specie, while the dog and the dolphin are communicating with humans and in response to humans.

The vervet monkeys are said to call out to each other when they see a predator, using different calls to define different predators, like...

References: Bauer, L., Holmes J., and Warren P. (2006). Language matters (pp. 7-17 and 49-55). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Explorationfilms (2008, May 13) The Language of Dolphins [Video file]. Retrieved March 2, 2013 from youtube.com/watch?v=jz3sQsTE5tA
Finegan, E. (2008). Language: Its structure and use (pp. 5-10). Boston: Thomas Wadsworth.
Gardea23 (2010, May 22) Mishka says 12 words — Dog Talking [Video file]. Retrieved March 2, 2013 from http://youtu.be/2c8MMiytwNs
Mehdi E (2010, 19 June) Can Monkeys Talk-Robert_Seyfarth RDF TV [Video file]. Retrieved March 2, 2013 from http://youtu.be/kxbAwIWJv2Q
Thompson N. (2003) Communication and Language: A handbook of theory and practice (pp. 36-45). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Yule, G. (2010). The study of language (pp.11-15). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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