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Decoding Animal Languages
While humans do not fully understand the complex nature of animal languages, researchers continue to make strides. The hope is that people will learn that just because a language is not understood, does not invalidate its meaning or purpose. When we consider all of the various languages humans use to speak, it is a wonder that animal languages are mainly perceived as a far-reaching concept.
Here is a thought for consideration. If you had the opportunity to speak to everyone in the world, how many people could you actually engage in effortless communication? To bring this thought into clearer focus, contemplate the Chinese population, where there are so many variations to the language, fellow countrymen struggle to understand the different meanings, and each other. With a population exceeding 1.3 billion people, it paints a particularly clear picture that simply not understanding the spoken language in no way nullifies its significance. Communication, be it written or vocal, human or animal, requires a fundamental language skill-set, otherwise conveyance of messages would not be understood. However, the particulars of animal linguistics cannot be properly appreciated until people first examine the meaning behind how they communicate. When people approach animal languages from this perspective, it is no longer a complicated, improbable notion.
Communication in the Big Blue:
Whales are the rock stars of communication. Most of their language is constructed through song and melody. Each species of whale carries a unique sound, and within each pod, there are further distinctions. This helps family members find each other over vast distances. Similar to humans, whale calves mimic their mothers in order to grow their vocabulary. Whales use a communication that consists of multiple short and long scales, and when combined, creates a hierarchical pitch structure, which produces song sounds.
An ongoing research project at Speak Dolphin indicates that dolphins use a sono-pictorial language. Findings indicate that dolphins essentially take snapshots of objects through sonar and transmit that data to other dolphins. Researchers from around the world are taking notice of this research and believe these findings have scientific merit. The researchers of this project are in the initial phases of putting together a dictionary of the dolphin language and working on inter-species communication. How amazing would it be to communicate with a dolphin!
In 1931, behavioral psychologist, Winthrop Kellogg, took in a 7 month old chimpanzee and raised it with his 10 month old son. He raised both as his children and treated them with equal measure. He cataloged all of his findings and concluded that the chimpanzee either met or exceeded his naturally born son's ability to communicate. The chimpanzee was so effective in language communication that Kellogg's son learned, communicated, and preferred to speak chimpanzee. This study remains the only co-rearing case in recorded history.
Researcher, Katharine Payne, made an amazing discovery in 1984, when she uncovered that most of an elephant's language is so low; the human ear cannot hear it. For people to hear most of what an elephant communicates requires the use of technology. Yet, the Sound Pressure Levels emitted by each elephant is equal to that of a construction site. These high-pressure levels are what allow elephants to communicate with one another over vast distances.
Perhaps one of the more direct ways for people to understand the necessity of animal languages is to examine the self. Humans are a mammal species known as Homo sapiens sapiens. Although humans are categorized as the last known of the Homo genus, there is much debate over whether or not chimpanzees should also be classified under the Homo genus rather than the Pan genus, as scientific findings uncovered that humans and chimpanzees diverged from the same lineage at the same time. Further, research into the brain function involved with language development revealed scientifically insignificant differences between humans and chimpanzees. This information conveys that people are part of the animal kingdom and utilize the common tool of language to function within it.
To learn more about animal languages, read Animal Talk: Breaking the Codes of Animal Language and The Language of Animals: 7 Steps to Communicating with Animals.
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