Complex Language Usage in Non-Human Species

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While human beings generally consider themselves superior to animals due to our sophisticated use of language, there are several species of animal who use language that includes many properties linguists consider necessary to classify a system of communication as a language. Opinion between linguists varies considerably on what constitutes a language, but generally it is agreed that "A language consists of symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combining those symbols, that can be used to generate an infinite variety of messages." (Weiten, 2008, p. 318.) While animal forms of communication may not be at the same level of complexity as human language, evidence shows that several methods of animal communication have many of the same attributes as human language and their methods suit their purposes for finding food, warning each other of predators and assisting in mating rituals. It is flawed reasoning to assume that because human language contains elements that are absent in animal communication that our language is superior to theirs. With this logic one could argue that bats are superior to humans due to their use of sonar locating, which is a biological impossibility for humans. While useful and necessary for bats, sonar is an ability that is not practical for humans and therefore is not a skill that has evolved in the human species. It is more likely that animal language is exactly as complex as is necessary for any given species and will evolve in the same way human language has to support the survival of each specie's specific needs. Nevertheless, several animal species have communication systems that include many of the same elements of human language. Two such animals are the Gunnison's prairie dog and the humpback wha... ... middle of paper ... ...sonable to assume that elements of animal language have evolved to allow for communication that facilitates the survival of each individual species, without elements that are unnecessary to their survival and procreation. Works Cited Slobodchikoff, C. N., Perla, B. S. & Verdolin, J. L. (2009). Prairie dogs: communication and community in an animal society Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press Suzuki, R.(2006) Warbling whales speak a language all their own. Retrieved April 2, 2011, from http://www.hhmi.org/news/pdf/suzuki20060321.pdf Tyack, P. (1981) Interactions between singing hawaiian humpback whales and conspecifics nearby. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 8(2), 105-116 Weiten, W. (2008) Psychology: themes and variations, Wadsworth Publishing. PerrinW., Wursig B. & Thewissen, J.(2008) Encyclopedia of marine mammals, Academic Press.
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