Different Language Capacity in Humans and Animals - Research Paper Example

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University of Richmond
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Research paper
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Language is defined as a method of communication, whether written or spoken, entailing the utilization of words in a conventional and structured way. A language allows humans to express their feelings. It likewise explains the cultural background of a particular community, and it differentiates humans from other animals (Haldane 387). Charles Darwin suggested that language is as a result of primitive and emotional communication capabilities in animals. It is important to note that all other animals such as dogs and monkeys communicate by utilizing different structures of communication systems which are innate. However, the systems of communication of animals lack flexibility, creativity and it is not as broad as human communication (Haldane 387). The capacity of people to communicate with a complex system of language can be attributed to the evolution of human technology and the society. There is a current hypothesis concerning animal language advanced from a group of scientists including Noam Chomsky, Mark Hauser, and W. Fitch who believe that language in humans and communication in animals enable them to express their feelings by rhythmic differences between them (Hasegawa 46). Primates and dogs that have been trained can discern between two different languages. This exemplifies their higher cognitive abilities as compared to other animals. Hence, this paper discusses the different capacity of language in dogs, monkeys, and humans, with a focus on learned sign language in monkeys as well as the language features that makes human language unique.

Dogs Ability to Communicate

Dogs which are probably the first animal to be domesticated have shared a familiar surrounding with people for over one thousand years. Dogs communicate using full body signals which reflect their feelings and what they think. As indicated by (Hasegawa 45) they use these signals consciously and unconsciously to communicate intent and make sure of their personal safety by influencing the behavior of others. A 1998 investigation indicates that dogs have inherited their capabilities to communicate from wolves and that their ability to communicate is a result of their exposure to human beings throughout their lives (Hasegawa 45). However, a 2002 study by Hare does not support these two hypotheses (Hasegawa 45). Rather, Hare's research supports the domestication hypothesis by indicating that dogs acquired their communication capabilities with humans during the procedure of domestication. That is since dogs and humans are special interspecies, it is easy for them to understand and share emotions with each other. For the past decades, many studies have indicated that dogs efficiently respond to human actions which are an effect of domestication. Dogs can understand and deal with human cues and gestures like gazing, pointing out, nodding and locating hidden food items. Dogs can communicate through three primary methods; visual, olfactory and Vocalization.

Visual Communication

Aloff (30) urges that the visual communication in dogs involve their capability include postures and facial expression which are said to have descended from wolves their ancestors. The figure below represents a dog that seems to communicate visually.


Figure 1.1(Aloff 33)

The selection of humans for specific physical attributes has hampered dogs' capabilities to utilize certain structures for visual communication. There are more than 400 canine breeds that have different external morphology and character (Aloff 33). Moreover, there is lots of variability in social behavior towards human beings and the communicative nature due to the breeds. For instance, it is easy for a Labrador to adapt to visual communication than a Great Pyrenees. However, all dogs are capable of learning through visualization.

Olfactory Communication

Olfactory means a sense of smell. Dog's sense of smell surpasses that of humans. As indicated by the Alabama Cooperative Extension systems, the sense of smell of a dog is a thousand times more than that of a two-legged companion (Hasegawa 49). Dogs are known to sniff through both its nose and mouth, which may open in some grin. The nostrils can move independently of each other which help it to pinpoint the direction of a particular smell. As dogs inhale a scent, it settles into its nasal cavity which is spacious and divided into two chambers which is home to millions of smell receptors (Hasegawa 49). The dogs' mucus can trap the sense particles inside the nasal chambers while it is processed by the olfactory receptors. Extra particles are trapped in the mucus on the external surface of the nose. In some instances, it takes more than one sniff for a dog to gather enough scent particles that helps it to distinguish an odor. When the dog is in need of breathing out, air is constrained on the outside of the nostrils, enabling dogs to keep noticing the smells they are presently sniffing. Furthermore, dogs have another olfactory chamber called Jacobson's organ, or, experimentally, the vomeronasal organ. Tucked at the base of the nasal cavity, it has two liquid-filled sacs that empower them to smell and taste at the same time. Puppies utilize it to find their milk from their mothers and even a favored nipple (Hasegawa 49). Canines mostly use the Jacobsons organ when noticing creature pheromones in substances like urine, or those transmitted when a female dog is in warm.

Vocalization Communication

To explore the communicative role of dogs' vocalization, it is important to understand more generally how particular acoustic parameters can encode relevant information regarding the signaler. An effective way of doing this is by considering the structure of vocalization based on their production mechanisms. All mammals have a similar vocal apparatus. Regarding the theories of vocalization, the source-filter concept of human speech production has made it able for bio-acousticians to analyze the acoustic structure of vertebrates vocal signals in the context of production, enabling scholars to examine the structure of signals which is influenced by both the physical and cognitive characteristics of a caller. The premise of this concept is that production of vocal signals comprises independent contributions from distinct parts of vocal apparatus that include the source and the filter. Dogs produce a range of vocalization that helps it to communicate. As stated by Kaminski and Pesoini (134) the acoustic structure of dogs vocalization looks to be the same to that of wolves.

Several studies that present acoustic analysis indicate that the barks and growls of dogs cannot be distinguished. Vocalizations of dogs include barking, growling, and whining (Kaminski & Pesoini 134). Dogs bark for various reasons including out of excitement, stress, fear, and boredom. Growling is where a dog bears its teeth, to primarily offer a warning. Most dogs growl to try and prevent a biting. Likewise, whining is a vocalization that is practiced by dogs from a young age to express their need for something or attention. While the sound produced by whining can be irritating, it is a sigh of communication that dogs use when they are in trouble, sensed danger or need attention.

Monkeys Ability to Communicate

Studies into monkeys communication skills using a variety of communication tools indicate that monkey produces behaviors that are consistent with the meaning according to the production of sentences in the human language (Kaminski & Pesoini 134).

Gorilla Sign Language Acquisition: Hanabiko Koko Experiment

Hanabiko, better known as Koko is a female gorilla born in July 1971, and she is known for having learned some sign language that was modified by the American Sign Language (ASL). Koko experiment involved exposing Koko to spoken English simultaneously from an early age. Dr. Penny Petterson was the primary sign language teacher, and within a few weeks, the gorilla was utilizing sign language combination to communicate. In the examination, Koko was able to learn sign language at a rate that paralleled acquisition of language by human children. According to Pettman (13), her most easily acquired signs occurred between the ages of 2.5 to 4.5, as compared to children who gain vocabulary between the ages of two and four years. Koko was able to learn over 200 new signs developed by ASL in her third year, and while the pace of learning tapered off just like in humans, Koko has continued to get new signs over the years, and she currently has over 1100 signs (Patterson 97). Koko's companion, Michael has been able to learn over 6000 signs at the same pace, and the two gorillas had some more benefits of being able to enhance their skills by communicating with one another.

The graphs below represent Kokos incremental sign acquisition for the first ten years.

Figure 1.2 (Patterson 122)

Figure 1.3 (Patterson 122)

In the above two graphs, the yellow bars and curves represent the cumulative number of signs that were spontaneously emitted and accurately at least once. The P Criterion represents signs which were emitted at least half the days of the month under the observation of two researchers. The two charts demonstrate that Koko learned to issue and comprehend over 800 new signs between the ages of 1 to 11, and went ahead after to surpass 1000 signs. The original male companion of Koko, Michael, who was two years younger than Koko learned the sign language at the same rate and advanced a vocabulary of more than 600 signs before he died in 2000 (Patterson 123).

Patterson suggests that Koko's utilization of signs and the activities that are in line with her usage of signs demonstrate she was able to ace sign language use. However, several analysts contend that she does not comprehend the importance of the learning of language and she only figures out how to finalize the signs primarily because the scientists remunerate her for doing so. That is, Kokos sign language education is a demonstration of the outcomes of operant conditioning (Fouts & Waters 787). Another concern that has been raised regarding Kokos capacity to express thoughtful contemplations by using signs is that understanding of the gorilla's discussion is left in the hands of the recipient, who may view doubtful connections of symptoms as significant. For instance, when Koko uses the sign "tragic" there is no certain way of understanding whether she something painful or miserable (Fouts & Waters 787).

Patterson further reveals that Koko has influenced a few complex employments of signs which propose a more created level of cognizance that is credited to monkeys and their utilization of correspondence. For instance, Koko has been accounted for by using her capability to impart about objects which are not yet known. At 19 years, Koko could pass the mirror test of self-recognition, which other gorillas failed (Fouts & Waters 788). She has additionally been reported to hand-off individual memories. Koko has likewise been accounted for utilizing meta-dialect, the capacity to use dialect reflexively to talk about dialect itself as well as marking the sign of goodwill to another gorilla that used sign language effectively.

Koko has also been reported to employ dialect deceptively, as well as use counterfactual articulations for amusing effects, recommending a fundamental hypothesis of other minds. Patterson (133) also states that she has archived Koko concocting new signs to convey novel musings. For instance, she says that no one showed Koko the word for "ring," yet to allude to it, Koko joined the words "finger" and "bracelet," subsequently to come up with "finger-bracelet." Feedback from a few researchers fixates on the way that, while distributions frequently show up in the modern presses about Koko, sound productions with free information are less...

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