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Flashcards in Animal communication Deck (45):
1

Communication

conveying information (intentionally or not) by means of signs

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semiotics

The study of signs

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What are the two parts of a sign?

the signifier and the signified

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the signifier

a word, a scent, a gesture, a colour change, etc.

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the signified

the “meaning” interpreted from the sign

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two things that could be signified by the sign

extension or intention

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extension

real-world referent

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intention

the mental representation associated with the sign

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extension/intention example

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.

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A sign can be? Iconic

resembling its referent. baring teeth (like biting)

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A sign can be? indexical

pointing to its referent. animal tracks

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A sign can be? Symbolic

arbitrarily linked to its referent. words of human language

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signals

Signs that trigger a reaction in the receiver

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symptomatic

Signs that are not used intentionally for communication.
Signs may or may not be used intentionally for communication.

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graded

varying in degree only ex cat's meowing varies with feelings of urgency

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discrete

varying in category

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An array of signs may be either?

graded or discrete

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Interchangeability

all members of the species can both send and receive messages.

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Feedback

users are aware of what they are transmitting.

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Specialization

the system is used only for communication.

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Semanticity

the system conveys information through fixed relationships among signifiers, referents, and meanings

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Arbitrariness

no natural/inherent connection between signifier and signified

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Discreteness

system consists of isolable, repeatable units

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Displacement

can refer to remote entities or events

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Productivity

new messages on any topic can be produced at any time

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Duality of patterning

meaningless units combine to form arbitrary meaning-bearing signs

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Tradition

some aspects of the system are acquired from other individuals

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Prevarication

users can talk nonsense or lie

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Learnability

users can learn other variants

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Reflexivity

the system can be used to discuss the system itself

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Design features of human language

Interchangeability
Feedback
Specialization
Semanticity
Arbitrariness
Discreteness
Displacement
Productivity
Duality of patterning
Tradition
Prevarication
Learnability
Reflexivity

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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.

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stimulus-bound

Animal communication has this, triggered by exposure to a particular stimulus. Human language need not be linked to a present (or indeed any) stimulus.

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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

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critical period

In some species of songbirds (the chaffinch), appropriate input within a critical period is necessary for full development of a song

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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.

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Individual variation

Birdsong shows individual variation in sound combinations. no evidence that the different combinations have different meanings.

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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

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vervet monkeys

different signs for different predators (snakes, eagles, etc). not concrete that these art a coincidence

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song birds

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).

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Higher apes

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

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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

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Washoe

A chimpanzee that learned to produce about 130 signs over three years, and was claimed to produce spontaneous combinations like BABY IN MY CUP

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dressage

picking up cues from trainers; or memorizing sequences without acquiring generative rules (apes)

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Kanzi

a pygmy chimpanzee that uses some word order rules, e.g. Agent-Action (MATATA BITE), Action-Patient (GRAB MATATA)—but only inconsistently. syntax may be uniquely human