Flashcards in Animal communication Deck (45):
conveying information (intentionally or not) by means of signs
The study of signs
What are the two parts of a sign?
the signifier and the signified
a word, a scent, a gesture, a colour change, etc.
the “meaning” interpreted from the sign
two things that could be signified by the sign
extension or intention
the mental representation associated with the sign
Example: the word ‘tree’
• Signifier: , /tri/
• Extension: an actual tree (or the set of all actual trees)
• Intension: mental representation with properties like “has a trunk and branches,” “is a plant”, etc.
A sign can be? Iconic
resembling its referent. baring teeth (like biting)
A sign can be? indexical
pointing to its referent. animal tracks
A sign can be? Symbolic
arbitrarily linked to its referent. words of human language
Signs that trigger a reaction in the receiver
Signs that are not used intentionally for communication.
Signs may or may not be used intentionally for communication.
varying in degree only ex cat's meowing varies with feelings of urgency
varying in category
An array of signs may be either?
graded or discrete
all members of the species can both send and receive messages.
users are aware of what they are transmitting.
the system is used only for communication.
the system conveys information through fixed relationships among signifiers, referents, and meanings
no natural/inherent connection between signifier and signified
system consists of isolable, repeatable units
can refer to remote entities or events
new messages on any topic can be produced at any time
Duality of patterning
meaningless units combine to form arbitrary meaning-bearing signs
some aspects of the system are acquired from other individuals
users can talk nonsense or lie
users can learn other variants
the system can be used to discuss the system itself
Design features of human language
Duality of patterning
Human language vs Animal communication
• Animal studies provide little comparative evidence for the gradual evolution of human language.
• None of our close genetic relatives have anything like human language.
Animal communication has this, triggered by exposure to a particular stimulus. Human language need not be linked to a present (or indeed any) stimulus.
what does "the bee dance" reflect?
reflects the distance, direction, and quality of a food source
signs are partly symbolic; however, they are innate, and tightly limited in function
In some species of songbirds (the chaffinch), appropriate input within a critical period is necessary for full development of a song
dialect variations in animals
songbird species show dialect variation that depends on input, not genetics. also been found in dolphins (including orcas) and some primates.
Birdsong shows individual variation in sound combinations. no evidence that the different combinations have different meanings.
partly discrete and arbitrary communication
In some species (e.g. vervet monkeys, chickens, prairie dogs. experience necessary to refine the categories of stimuli that elicit the various responses
different signs for different predators (snakes, eagles, etc). not concrete that these art a coincidence
dialect variations but the vocal repertoire itself is fixed. no evidence that different ways of combining the same sounds have different meaning. signs produced may be symptomatic (unintentional).
show little evidence of producing discrete signs. appear to have abstract concepts and a rich social organization, but their vocal repertoire does not seem to reflect this
Can monkeys learn to speak?
lack a descended larynx and other physiological properties of the human vocal tract, so they have difficulty articulating human speech
A chimpanzee that learned to produce about 130 signs over three years, and was claimed to produce spontaneous combinations like BABY IN MY CUP
picking up cues from trainers; or memorizing sequences without acquiring generative rules (apes)