Human-Animal Communication

Language is primarily human. It is humans alone that possess language and use it for communication. Language is, in that sense, species-specific––it is specific only to one set of species. Also, all human beings uniformly possess language. It is only a few deaf (and therefore dumb) persons who cannot speak. Thus language is species-uniform to that extent. Animals also have their own system of communication but communication between them is extremely limited.

It is limited to a very small number of messages.  The first principle is that language relates to communication between human beings, not between animals. Language shows certain inherent features of design. These features set it apart from other forms of communication; particularly animal communication. The famous American linguist, Charles Hackett has found key properties of language or design features which as a whole don’t appear among animals: these are the design features of language. These are seven: duality, productivity, arbitrariness, interchangeability, displacement, specialization and cultural transmission. Animal communication can never encompass all the properties of human communication. In this regard, Bertrand Russell’s dictum is appropriate:

“No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor but honest”
 Human Language
Animal Communication
1.       unlimited
2.      open system
3.      extendible
4.      flexible and varied
5.      non-intrinsic
6.      acquired
7.      creativity
8.      recurrent
9.      has grammaticality
10.   cognitively behavioral
11.   descriptive& narrative
1.       limited and finite
2.      closed system
3.      inextendible
4.      non-inflexible
5.      instinctive
6.      inherent
7.      non-creativity
8.      repetitive
9.      no grammaticality
10.   only behavioral
11.   no-descriptive
First, language has phonological and grammatical duality. We have small meaningless sounds and turn them into a number of sequences to produce millions of meaningful utterances. This is the most economical feature of language. Second, productivity refers to the creative capacity of language users to produce an endless number of new sentences, in contrast to the communication systems of individuals which are limited to set formulas and are thus ‘unproductive’. Chomsky calls it Creativity.  It means that we can create sentences which we have never spoken or heard of. Animals don’t possesses this quality.  Third, in language, the role of the speaker and hearer can be exchanged without any problem. Any user of the language is both a listener and a speaker. In the animal world, some are endowed with the ability while others are not. Fourth, Human Speech is a specialized activity. We can talk about an exciting experience while at the same time doing something else like peeling potatoes. Fifth, a human being, for example, can talk about the past, the present or the future, of an event that happened nearby or thousands of miles away. An animal cannot do that. When a dog produces a certain sound, it generally refers to the present.
Man is said to be intimately disposed to learn a language. His innate competence helps him master the unique features of a specific language. Thus language is transmitted from generation to generation. Animals don’t learn their call systems from elders. Their knowledge is inherent.  Language is both species-specific and species-uniform. We acquire our native tongue by cultural transmission. It is by means of our native tongue that we receive cultural transmissions. That we learn and adapt. This is the spiral that has driven human development. Animal communication differs from human communication in many ways as illustrated in the chart. Furthermore, language makes use of discrete symbols while animal communication systems are often continuous or non-discrete. One can clearly distinguish between /k/, /æ/ and /t/ in the word cat but one cannot identify different discrete symbols in the long humming sound that a bee produces. A bee’s dance or a cock’s crow is today the same that it was two hundred years ago. It is not so in the case of language. Language is changing, growing every day and new words are coming up.  Human language is far more structurally complex than animal commu­nication.  Human language is complex while there is no complexity in Lamb’s cry.  
In short, there is a great difference between the two species yet in many ways, humans interpret the behaviour of domestic animals, or can command them. Humans have behaviors that resemble animal’s interspecific ommunication. Some of our bodily features – eyebrows, beards and moustaches – strongly resemble adaptations to producing signals. Humans also often seek to mimic animals’ communicative signals in order to interact with the animals. For example, humans often close their eyes towards a pet cat to establish a tolerant relationship. Stroking, petting and rubbing pet animals are all actions that probably work through their natural patterns of interspecific communication.

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