Psychology 485
March 2, 2010
 Introduction
• Difference between communication and
language
• Why learn to communicate? Why learn
language?
 What is learned?
• Different types of communication
• Animals learning language
 How is it learned?
• Innate or learned?
 Passing
of information from one individual
to another
• A two-way process: must consider both the signaller
and the receiver
 Cues & Signals
• Cue
 animate or inanimate feature of the world that can be used
as a guide for behaviour
• Signal
 an act or structure that evolved to alter the behaviour of
another organism, and is effective because receiver’s
response
4
main properties of language:
• Semantic
• Arbitrariness
• Productivity
• Displacement
4
main properties of language:
• Semantic
 Language has meaning
• Arbitrariness
• Productivity
• Displacement
4
main properties of language:
• Semantic
• Arbitrariness
 There is no rational relationship between the signal
and its meaning
 There is nothing “housy” about the word “house”
• Productivity
• Displacement
4
main properties of language:
• Semantic
• Arbitrariness
• Productivity
 A finite number of units can be used to create an
infinite number of utterances
 “The dog bit the man”
 “The man bit the dog”
• Displacement
4
main properties of language:
• Semantic
• Arbitrariness
• Productivity
• Displacement
 Communicate ideas that are not in immediate vicinity
(spatially or temporally)
 “I ate lunch at the A&W in HUB”
 Can
animal communication be classed as
language?
• Semantics
 By definition, “signals” have meaning
• Arbitrariness
 Not always – e.g. Vervet monkeys
• Productivity
 Some evidence of animal “syntax”

Chickadees
• A, B, C, D note calls
• Notes always in right
order, but different
combinations
• D notes may indicate
predators or danger

Putty-nosed monkeys
• “pyow” means leopard
• “hack” means eagle
• Males utter up to 3 pyows and up to 4 hacks in sequence;
means “get the hell outta here!”
 Can
animal communication be classed as
language?
• Semantics
 By definition, “signals” have meaning
• Arbitrariness
 Not always – e.g. Vervet monkeys
• Productivity
 Some evidence of animal “syntax”
• Displacement
 Bee dance shows spatial displacement
 But, to
be language, all 4 properties must be
met... Not just 1 or 2
 Communication
is the backbone of all social
activity
• Mating
• Caring for offspring
• Foraging
• Safety
 Cooperation?
Deception?
• How has evolution shaped communication patterns?
• More on this when we talk about morality
 What
is adaptive about language?
• Why evolve language as opposed to relying on
(simpler) communication?
 Hard
to address this issue since only
humans are agreed to have language
• Memes and social/cultural transmission
• Effect of language on cognitive abilities
 Memes
• Cultural analogue of genes
• “unit” of cultural ideas, symbols or practices that
can be transmitted from one mind to another
 Did
language evolve to allow for social
and cultural transmission?
• More efficient social learning
 Social/cultural
transmission can occur without
language
• Japanese macaques
 Potato washing behaviour
 Started by 1 monkey, now
common
• New Caledonian Crows
 Tool manufacture
 Pandanus tool varies
according to geographic
area
 Study
adaptiveness of language by
looking at how it affects various abilities
• How to “get rid” of language during an
experiment?
• Verbal shadowing tasks
 Example:
adults
Geometric module
•
Does spatial language (e.g. “left”,
“right”) affect use of feature?
•
Adults doing a verbal shadowing task
revert to geometry
•
Rats,
children
•
Hermer-Vazquez, Spelke, and Katsnelson
(1999)
But... Some animals without language
(e.g. fish) can use both geometry and
features
 Is
language and communication distinct
processes, or is language just a
specialized form of communication?
• Is there a continuum?
 To
what extent does language affect our
cognitive abilities? Does this make us
significantly different from other species?
Forms of communication
Teaching animals human language
 “If
a lion could talk, we could not
understand him”
 Wittgenstein,1919, Philsophical Investigations
 Olfactory
communication
 Visual
communication
• Handicapping signals
• Colour changes
• Body language
• Bee waggle dance
 Vocal
communication
• Vocal calls
 Alarm, roars, hisses, etc
• Songs
• Human language
 Initial
attempts to teach apes language
failed
• Anatomical constraints
• Lack of vocal cords, different control of lips and
tongue
 Later
attempts used other formats
• American Sign Language
• Lexigrams

Washoe
• Raised by husband-wife
researcher team; Gardners
• Trained with ASL
• 250 signs
• Novel combinations?
 Swan = water bird

Nim Chimpsky
•
•
•
•
Herb Terrace
~150 signs
Long utterances, but repetitive
No linguistic grammar or structure
 Kanzi
• Bonobo
• Sue Savage-Rumbaugh
was teaching Kanzi’s
mother to use
lexigram
• Kanzi learned symbols
• Able to answer novel
questions
 Critical
Periods
 Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour
• Changes in language and “verbal behaviour”
can result from reinforcement histories
 Language
Acquisition Device
• Postulated brain “organ” for learning language
• An innate capacity to learn language
 Several
animals learn communication
through exposure to parents/conspecifics
• Humans, bats, parrots, hummingbirds, songbirds,
elephants, cetaceous whales and dolphins
 Cross-fostered
foster species
 Physical
birds will learn songs of
interaction is important
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Language & Communication