Do Animals Have Language? Sample Essay

It is in the sentiment of the writer that animate beings do non hold the capableness of linguistic communication ; this essay will concentrate and set frontward the grounds as to why this sentiment takes topographic point. Language is a signifier of communicating ; it can be ocular. sound or sensory. In worlds the vocal linguistic communication provides merely 10 per cent of how we communicate. organic structure linguistic communication plays a much higher function. nevertheless. both verbal and non verbal linguistic communication in worlds is knowing. pass oning about past. nowadays and hereafter. therefore specifying it as linguistic communication. whereas in animate beings this is non ever the instance. their communicating is immediate and relates to issues of immediate importance. Research suggests communicating in the carnal species is for endurance. there are many maps of this ( Grier & A ; Burk. 1992 ) suggested. many pet proprietors likely like to believe they talk with their pets and these if non response. at least understand.

But whether this is true and pets or animate beings in general are capable of understanding linguistic communication. Furthermore. whether they are capable of meaningfully pass oning between themselves remains without a clear reply. The inquiry whether worlds are or are non the lone species capable of linguistic communication can be answered merely after deeper analysis. which can be carried out by taking into history and comparing chief features of linguistic communication. First. a definition of linguistic communication. there are many efforts to specify linguistic communication but the 1 that is the closest to the full definition of linguistic communication is that of Charles Hockett. Over 10 old ages Hockett tried to specify linguistic communication by finding the chief belongingss of human linguistic communication. The longest list consist of 16 design characteristics or indispensable features ( Aitchinson. 1989 )

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There is the usage of vocal-auditory channel. which is one of the most obvious characteristics of linguistic communication and merely means that vocal variety meats generate communicating and hearing mechanism receives it. This design characteristic is non alone to worlds and it is comparatively widespread in the universe of animate beings. But besides. since the lingual communicating can be transmitted via authorship or mark linguistic communication it is non a defining characteristic of human linguistic communication.

Another characteristic is arbitrariness. which suggests that the construct and the significance are non connected ; hence the symbols used in linguistic communication are impersonal. For illustration there is no natural connexion between word “rabbit” and the rage animate being it symbolizes. This is by and large a regulation although there are some exclusions – onomatopoetic words such as “crunch” or “bang” but there are merely a few in each linguistic communication.

The fact there is an arbitrary relationship between lingual marks and the object they represent can be considered a defining characteristic of linguistic communication and therefore it can be examined in more item whether flightiness is besides present in communicating system of animate beings. The first feeling might be that there is a strong nexus between the message conveyed and the signal used to convey it ( Yule. 1985 ) . However. this is non supported when taking into consideration an experiment carried out on Pan troglodytes Sarah.

Sarah was rewarded an apple if she managed to choose the right plastic form. Apple was represented by bluish plastic trigon and therefore it is possible to state that the characteristic of flightiness is present in carnal communicating since there is no obvious relationship between the bluish plastic trigon and an apple ( Aitchison. 1989 ) .

Another facet of linguistic communication is semantically. which is harmonizing to Dobrovolsky the usage of symbols that convey intending “through set of fixed relationships among forms. referents and meanings” ( Dobrovolsky. 1996 ) . It is argued that semantically is alone to worlds since animate beings do convey a significance but in a really restricted signifier e. g. bird vocals or calls. However. there is certain grounds proposing that semantically is present in animal’s address. This was shown in the experiment with Pan troglodytes Washoe when she named the objects after seeing them on the image holding a anterior cognition of the object from a different state of affairs. Semantily is besides present in her usage of mark “more” . First. she associated this mark merely with titillating state of affairs but subsequently she used it to demand “more” nutrient ( Aitchison. 1989 ) .

Another of import belongings of linguistic communication is a cultural transmittal or tradition ( Yule. 1985 ) . This indicates that linguistic communication is non genetically inbuilt in humans- it must be learnt from the environment. However. this can non be applied to animate beings whose acquisition is natural. For illustration. a puppy Born in England or in any other different state will ever bring forth the same sound whereas a babe born for illustration in Sweden but brought up in England will automatically go a fluid talker of English. This. nevertheless. besides has some exclusions which suggest that this characteristic is non alone to humans- for illustration birds – if these are in their first hebdomads separated from other birds they will still bring forth vocals but these will be unnatural to their species ( Yule. 1985 ) .

Among Hockett’s characteristics is besides a self-generated use of linguistic communication. This occurs when the address is initiated freely. This is said to be present in both human and carnal communicating systems as most of the animate beings do express freely. Although there might be some troubles to make up one’s mind whether the reply is yes or no. These are based on experiment with Pan troglodytess that proved that in the interaction with worlds they merely seldom initiated the conversation and if they spoke. most of the times it was in response to trainer’s inquiries ( Yule. 1985 ) .

Along with self-generated use comes turn-taking as a 2nd societal characteristic of the linguistic communication. This means taking bends in speech production and it is one of the most obvious characteristics present in both communicating systems. It often occurs in phenomenon known as responsive vocalizing when birds take bends in vocalizing. ( Christmas. 1985 ) .

Dichotomy is besides one the shaping characteristics of linguistic communication. This means that linguistic communication is organised into two degrees. There is physical degree which enables us to bring forth sounds like p. i. g. These. standing by themselves. are nonmeaningful. It is merely at the 2nd degree after uniting them into sequences such as p-i-g when they become meaningful. It is by and large thought that this belongings is sole to worlds but there is besides grounds against- dichotomy is present in bird’s vocals where the single notes do non hold any peculiar significance but a combination of them does convey a significance ( Aitchison. 1989 ) .

The ability to mention to the past and future and other locations is called supplanting. This characteristic enables us to speak about things far removed in the clip and topographic point. This excessively. is claimed to be an plus of human linguistic communication merely although it was proved that e. g. bees show ability to mention to distant beginnings of nectar ( Yule. 1985 ) . This. nevertheless. does non use when mentioning to beginnings of nectar in the yesteryear or hereafter or -as shown in experiment conducted by Karl von Frisch – to perpendicular motion ( Yule. 1985 ) therefore doing the characteristic of displacement really limited and merely partly present in carnal communicating.

Apart from supplanting. another characteristic that seems to be peculiarly human trait is construction dependance. This involves recognizing the form of a linguistic communication and pull stringsing parts of the sentences into different constructions and besides includes the usage of grammar. Findingss from the experiment with Pan troglodytess do non propose that they grasped the thought of construction dependent operations and neither do the other surveies of animate beings.

Similarly. there is no grounds of animate beings holding an ability to reflect e. g. speaking about the linguistic communication in nomenclature.

In decision. it is possible to state that critical rating of Hockett’s design features suggests that animate beings may hold non as much of a linguistic communication every bit merely a communicating system within their species.

About each of the Hockett’s design characteristics can be found in communicating systems of certain species but it ne’er is all of them that are present in merely one communicating system. This applies to the full to all carnal communicating systems although it is deserving adverting that peculiar species such as apes are proved to make well better in respects to enclosure of design characteristics in their address. This nevertheless. is aided by aid of research music directors and does non go on of course.


Aitchison. J. ( 1989 ) The articulate mammal – An debut to Psycholinguistics. London: Hutchinson.

Dobrovolsky. M. ( 1996 ) Animal communicating. London: Longman.

Hockett. C. F. ( 1959 ) . Animal “languages” and human linguistic communication. Human Biology. 31. 32-39.

Christmas. G. ( 1985 ) The survey of linguistic communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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