Talk:Animal language

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Comments[edit]

  • Generative Grammar is part of the Nativist posistion. The paragraph that was based on the assumption that these were two different and opposing posistions has been removed.

(above by archgoon, unsigned)

  • Planned edits:
  1. Will revert the above deleted paragraph (comparison here) with the correction as noted by Archgoon. Emergentism or related bottom-up approaches were intended, and the use of generativism was indeed erroneous.
  2. Will edit text to be encyclopedic
  3. Will remove refernces to animal communication, which are outside the definition of 'animal language'. (As the distinction between what consitutes animal language from animal communication is a broadly debated issue ammongst various disciplines, I thought expansion or improved academic cross-referencing of the debate might be appropriate. I have added three references to highlight this issue. Have also standardised the reference list - I hope it is acceptably cleaner now (Mark Pharoah (talk) 11:49, 18 March 2008 (UTC)))
  4. NOTE: significant overlap exists between this article and Great Ape language. Merging may be indicated, but will be much work to combine the information in both articles.Santaduck 22:42, 20 January 2006 (UTC)


Regarding the following sentence:

'Productivity:' A finite number of units can be used to create an infinite number of ideas.(some say this doesn't happen in human language)

Who says it doesn't happen? It should be cited. As a Linguistics student, I can say that this is a standard position in Linguistics, so if someone disagrees, it should say who. If no one adds that in a few days, I'll edit that out of the sentence. Torgo 07:23, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

Let's be clear - linguists don't standardly hold that "units can be used to create...ideas" but that finite linguistic resources can be used to produce indefinitely many utterances and/or sentences. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 144.82.107.18 (talkcontribs).

I deleted the parenthetical phrase from the above sentence, and changed 'ideas' to 'utterances', which is technically more correct, and maybe that was the reason "some" people (whoever they are) object to the claim. Torgo 10:21, 6 March 2006 (UTC)

Neutrality and verify[edit]

There are an astounding number of papers referenced at the bottom, but little inline citation so I have added the verify tag and some fact tags. The page appears to have been written from a pro-Animal language POV, per example below:

In 1984 during this anti-Animal Language backlash, Louis Herman published an account of artificial

Why is this called the "anti-Animal language backlash"? That does not appear to be NPOV wording to me. There are other examples throughout the article so I have added the neutrality tag. - FrancisTyers 17:56, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

  • Thank you for your attention. 4 comments: 1) NPOV should be addressed in this article primarily via definition of terms. In general, differing POVs arise from different assumptions, e.g. on what language is, or what the interpretation of particular animal results are. Thus the simple dichotomy between "pro" and "against" animal language camps is inaccurate, and not informative for the general reader. There are various camps within each of many groups: linguistic specialists (nativists and non-nativists), animal behavior specialists, psychology-behaviorists, psychology-cognitive scientists, language evolution writers, artificial language scientists, and more. A ground-up rewrite listing each camp, assumptions, and some key conclusions would be best. In summary, to simply contrast the two sides of PRO and AGAINST would be insufficient. 2) The word backlash was intended as NPOV. It neither approves or disapproves of anti-animal langauge sentiment that was prevalent in that era. The backlash itself is easily verifiable by historical commentary on the Herb Terrace critique, as well as the simple fact that the relevant cognitive and linguistic peer review journals simply stopped publishing papers on this topic. 3) NPOV seems to be a huge concern in the great ape language article as well. 4) The number of references are not intended as citations for existing text. It is a resource, since most available texts are rarely written from NPOV, it is difficult for the general reader to find a nearly complete list of relevant literature in any single resource. This article can provide that resource, and perhaps should be renamed to Further reading, rather than references. Also, at the time these citations were added, the article was a barebones and inadequate summary of animal communication systems (i.e. not animal language) with a mis-applied list of Hockett's design features from more than 40 years ago-- as such these references were essentially intended a stub for a future comprehensive article.Santaduck 08:07, 20 March 2006 (UTC)

Multiple articles on great ape language[edit]

This article is one of at least 16 articles on Wikipedia about the fascinating but controversial subject of Great ape language. These articles have been created independently and contain much interesting but uncoordinated information, varying levels of NPOV, and differences in categorization, stubbing, and references. Those of us working on them should explore better coordinating our efforts so as to share the best we have created and avoid unnecessary duplication. I have somewhat arbitrarily put the list of 16 articles on Talk:Great ape language and would encourage us to informally coordinate efforts there on this topic in particular. Martinp 18:00, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

  • comment: I would argue that great ape language is a subset of animal language, in the encyclopedic sense, and that the bias of great ape language being the parent topic is perhaps due more to the greater awareness of animal models in the popular press, which should not be the criterion for encyclopedic categorization-- in other words animal language should be the parent topic. However, strongly agree that some form of coordination is essential. If that fails, perhaps animal language should simply list contrasting models and POVs, pointing to individual fragmented articles-- although this is not an ideal solution, perhaps ht of conflicting parties, the end result of a fragmented set of entries would provide more useful reading material to the browsing general reader. Santaduck 08:11, 20 March 2006 (UTC)

Is this actually the title??[edit]

"Please suck my balls parse the sentence", in bibliography. Turns nothing in google, either. No, that's not the title. While linguists are occasionally vulgar, this seems to have been vandalism in the following edit:

09:07, 21 June 2006 62.231.155.5 (Talk) (→Literature)

I corrected it and one other vandalism from the same edit recently. Thanks! --RockRockOn 05:45, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

Merge[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

I have added the related tage to the other article. -- Alan Liefting (talk) - 03:09, 9 June 2009 (UTC)

I think that would be a good idea. --ジェイ 接触 貢献 ゲストブック 11:45, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

I second that. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 64.75.130.186 (talk) 03:40, 22 February 2008 (UTC)

I agree for the following reasons: 1. animal comm. and animal lang. are similar enough, 2. animal comm. is a topic from which animal lang. might profit from very much in order to explain animal lang. and possibly also human lang. compared to animal lang.. Said: Rursus 05:53, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

I completely disagree- communication and language are distinct topics. Animal communication should include things like ant pheromone trails, which are an example non-lingual communication. And animal acquisition of human language doesn't really belong in an article on natural animal communication. 64.81.54.147 (talk) 03:11, 30 November 2008 (UTC)

Oppose. Both can exist as standalone articles. Note the communication is not the same as language. -- Alan Liefting (talk) - 03:09, 9 June 2009 (UTC)

Communication is the transmission of information; you can communicate with or without the use of linguistic means, so there is a significant difference. Furthermore, the question whether animal have a language is much disputed, while the question whether they communicate is not: they obviously do. So merging would be a bad idea.134.2.186.7 (talk) 20:06, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

Oppose. Communication is not the same as language. Miloshd7 (talk) 11:45, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Strong Agree. Animal communication includes language. While communication and langauge are not the same topics, language is a form of communication and can therefore be included as a section in Animal communication. Mr.TrustWorthy----Got Something to Tell Me? 18:24, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

Agree. Animal language is part of animal communication, and should therefore be included in the same article. Pink Python (talk) 22:33, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Oppose. Although language is a subset of communication, both articles are fairly long and to merge them would mean cutting content. This area of ethology is broad enough to support two articles. I'm putting a "main" tag on the language section in the communication article to indicate that that section is expanded in the language article. 199.125.109.138 (talk) 00:04, 25 August 2009 (UTC)

strong oppose the study of how members of the same species communicate as studies by biologists etc. (e.g. birdsong, communication among insects, fishes etc) is a totally different topic from the topic getting non-human animals to communicate using a human derived language. Apples, Oranges, studied by different people, using different methods, theories etc. The topics are only similar on the most superficial level and shoehorning them into the same article just shows a lack of understanding of each topic. Pete.Hurd (talk) 13:28, 23 September 2009 (UTC)


The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Language as social interaction[edit]

It seems like this article is entirely based on either biologically based research, or on structuralist linguistics. In short, on the highly abstract idea of language as a sort of natural phenomenon. The most obvious aspects of language, as a social interaction between individuals and groups of individuals, seems totally left out.

Is there's really no reseach treating 'animal language' from this point of view? This is especially needed in the discussion of Koko, where some of the critique seems to be based on ignorance, both of these theoretical aspects and of their oractical implications. There's at least plenty of language philosophy that should be mentioned to make the article less biased and thus more interesting to others than die-hard 'science' buff.

Linkomfod (talk) 01:13, 17 January 2009 (UTC)

I agree that it should be merged into animal communication. They are basically the same topic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 125.239.130.137 (talk) 06:10, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

Human isolation from humans[edit]

Consider this recent news report: Russian girl discovered 'behaving like dog' - Yahoo!7 News If a human is deprived of contact with other humans, and only hears sounds from animals, they appear to learn to behave like animals. Would anyone be able to find medical journals on this, and possibly expand on any details? -- 李博杰  | Talk contribs email guestbook complaints 08:40, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

Lead sentence[edit]

Lead sentences are important, and the current one could use a lot of improvement. Currently, it reads:

Animal language is the modeling of human language in non human animal systems.

This can be misinterpreted as being unilinealist/anthropocentrist, which is an incorrect view of evolution. (Evolution doesn't have the singular goal of marching inexorably towards modern humans -- there are more organisms in side branches than in the "main" branch. It's very likely that we'll find some example of animal language that has a unique feature not found in any human language (because we didn't descend from them), but that we still decide it fits within our definition of "language".)

Also, I initially misinterpreted it as saying "this article only discusses instances of animal language where an animal has learned language from a human trainer".

When this sentence was first added, the sentence was used to distinguish between animal language and animal communication. In that context, it's much harder to misinterpret the sentence.

I understand that it's not yet possible to pin down a definition of language, so the lead sentence will inevitably have to be somewhat vague, leaving some of the details for further down in the article. So that makes it more difficult to write a good lead sentence. But could someone write a better one for this article? (I'm not remotely knowledgeable in the field, otherwise I'd do it) --Underpants 01:28, 5 June 2009 (UTC)

  • Looking at the lead sentence, I think it's important that we find a way to differentiate between non-human animal language and animals using human language. Much of this section is focused on the relationship between human language and animal communication, which could be interpreted as an anthropocentric point of view. 
  • Derek Bickerton brings up the "primate-centric bias" in his book Adam's Tongue, as well as the "homocentric bias". He discusses the belief that "the communication systems of other species make up some kind of hierarchy, like a ladder or a pyramid with language seated firmly on top." Continuing on, he says that many choose to present it as if the "communication systems of other species were no more than a series of botched attempts at language". This is an important thing to watch out for, especially in a section like this where it's easy to relate everything back to human language as a comparison.
  • Perhaps we could include some additional information on the controversies surrounding the term "animal language" and what classifies something as a non-human language? Marnat27 (talk) 20:42, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

Cultural Transmission edit[edit]

In the summary I changed "cultural transmission has occurred with the offspring of many of the great apes who have been taught sign languages, the celebrated bonobos Kanzi and Panbanisha being examples." to "cultural transmission has possibly occurred between the celebrated bonobos Kanzi and Panbanisha." Neither of them know sign language (to me knowledge), but instead use lexigram boards. Perhaps there are better cases than the sketchy yogurt example given in this reference. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Aaport (talkcontribs) 02:25, 4 January 2010 (UTC)

Arbitrariness?[edit]

The following properties of human language have been argued to separate it from animal communication:

Arbitrariness: There is no rational relationship between a sound or sign and its meaning. (There is nothing intrinsically "housy" about the word "house".)

Though I find this whole list absurd, How is it that "Arbitrariness" seperates human language from animal language? What exactly is "Meowy" about the word "meow", or "mewy" about "mew" or "ruffy" about "ruff". The meaning behind these animal "words" are just as arbitrary as in human languages. If animal languages lack arbitariness then why do all animals make different sounds?...210.185.4.223 (talk) 07:58, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Communication vs. Language[edit]

All animals communicate in one way or another, and some aspects of human language such as displacement and arbitrariness are argued not to be found in animal language. However, Karl Von Frisch's article Decoding the Language of the Bee illustrates examples of both displacement and arbitrariness in bee language and communication systems. This subject is mentioned in the Aspects of Human Language section of this article. However, I wonder if we are jumping to conclusions in saying that non-human animal language systems with these properties are modeled after human language. This section could be misinterpreted to have a homocentric bias because of the direct comparisons, which we obviously don't want to happen.

The differences between animal language and animal communication are mentioned later in the section, however they do seem to conflict with the organization we have here in this section.  Currently it says in the Comparision to the term with "animal communication" section that "'animal language' typically does not include bee dancing, bird song, whale song, dolphin signature whistles, prairie dogs, nor the communicative systems found in most social mammals." The section continues on to reference the features listed above (which I'm guessing are the earlier mentioned properties of human language) are from Charles Hockett (again, I'm guessing that's a reference to Hockett's 13 design features of language). The issue I'm seeing with this right now is that we have many of these features listed in the animal language section referenced as both animal language and animal communication causing a contradiction within the article as a while. Perhaps this was left over from the separation from the Animal Communication article? If so, I think there needs to be a decision made about whether or not this section will focus on aspects of human language found within non-human animals or if that needs to be moved back to the Animal Communication section where it (seemingly and based on this edit) belongs. Marnat27 (talk) 20:41, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

Contradictions can be included in this article as long as the differences of opinion are referenced and from credible sources. Just remember to include the name of the author of the opinion, so the opinion does not give the appearance of being the voice of Wikipedia (see weasel words) and to be clear that there may be a differences of opinion between researchers.Waters.Justin (talk) 15:08, 27 April 2015 (UTC)

Suggestions for restructure[edit]

Taking from Marnat27s suggestion on the moving of the Animal communication section to Animal language brings up the question of what should go in animal language and what should go into animal communication? After much thought about this I suggest that if we take Derek Bickertons argument to heart and accept his definition that, "Animal communication is innate, language has to be learned" (p.217 Bickerton Adams tongue) speaking to the difference between communication and language. Then we can clearly separate the two and more easily delegate what information belongs in each section.

If we accept that the difference between communication and language is that one must be taught and the other is natural then we can section off the animal communication page to be dedicated entirely to list the different established animal communication systems that would logically seem innate, bird calls, bee dances, ant pheromone trails ect. While it’s quite difficult to determine what part of the communication animals do is learned and which is innate but we’ll have to use our best judgment and base our findings on research done in the field. Marc hauser(1996) has done great work to establish these systems and despite his recent misconduct has given alot of good information we can base the different ACSs on. We can also keep the breakdown of intraspecies and interspecies communication along with the different forms, physical, pheromone, dance, ect.

While the Animal language section can be dedicated to the modeling of human language systems with the established ACSs, discussing how these systems have been studied to relation to aspects of our own language, bee dance showing signs of displacement, apes like koko using arbitrariness in her signs by using words that sound like or rhyme to mean other things. Sections for taught language should also be here, not only humans teaching apes sign but also taught things that occur in nature. Perhaps we could also speak to the difference between language and communication here, rather than the communication page. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Erirya03 (talkcontribs) 23:36, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

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