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Bucoy, Jonah B.

MA ENG NT I
18 November
2016
Thought Paper
No. 1

Behind the Chirps, Barks, Whistles and Howls


We hear chirps, barks, whistles and howls from different animals.
These sounds have different patterns. The sound-patterns that animals
make may indicate danger, warning, feelings, location of food sources or
even finding a mate. Sometimes, we see some of the animals lining up to
make formations. This is very common to flying animals like birds. We can
sometimes see a group of birds flying in a formation. These formations may
also indicate something else. The sound-patterns and formations that
animals do are used for their communication. Although animals can
communicate, they do not use language for communication. This can be
understood in scrutinizing the pieces of evidence on how different language
is from communication; why animal communication is only instinctive and
limited and; why language is distinct to humans.
Language is different from communication. While one of the goals of
language is communication, they fall into two different directions.
Communication is the process of understanding and sharing meaning
(Pearson & Nelson, 2000 cited in McLean, 2003). Chomsky (1957 cited in
Das, 2006) defines language as a set (finite or infinite) of sentences, each
finite in length and constructed out of a finite set of elements. Hence,
language is considered to be structured since it is formed from words and
sentences. Moreover, Worf (1940 cited in Das, 2006) articulates that
language determines one's entire way of life, including one's thinking and
all other forms of mental activity. To use language is to limit oneself to the
modes of perception already inherent in that language. The fact that
language is only form and yet molds everything goes to the core of what
ideology is.
Animal communication is only instinctive and limited. Animals make
sound-patterns, gestures and formations involuntarily (Kim, 2014). This
means that they are only prompted by their natural instincts to do those
things. In 2016, Egnor argues that animals communicate by signals, not by
language. Some animals, after sufficient training by human researchers, use
signals that mimic language. Signals are not language since making signals
are only instinctive and not learned. On characteristic of language is that it
is also learned. Language is an abstract process that relates designators in
grammatical relations to objects designated. Language has a variety of
properties, including semantics, arbitrariness between the designator and
the object of the designation, unlimited productivity (an infinite number of
sentences can be produced via a grammar that governs relations of
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designators), reference to particulars or to abstract concepts denoted by


the designator that are not physical objects in the vicinity, among others
(Egnor, 2016). The signals that animals make are only few and repeatedly
performed through time. This is the reason why their communication is
limited. It does not evolve unlike in humans.
Language is distinct to humans. Language is a purely human and
non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by
means of voluntarily produced symbols (Sapir, 1921 cited in Das, 2006).
Animals do not produce sound-patterns and make signals voluntarily
making their communication instinctive. Additionally, in Eric Lenneberg's
view (Smith & Miller 1968 cited in Hedeager, n.d.) language has a biological
foundation. He argues that the human organism matures according to a
fixed maturational process, and that language develops in children during
this period. The earliest sounds of a human infant are stimulus controlled
(Fromkin & Rodman, 1998 cited in Hedeager, n.d.). It has a mammalian
larynx that can rise, enabling concurrent breathing and eating, and not until
the age of three months are its speech organs ready for producing vowels
(Pinker, 1995 cited in Hedeager, n.d.). Animals do not also have the
biological foundation related to language which makes language distinct to
humans.
Based on the definition of communication, animals do also understand
each other and share meaning to each other by making signals like soundpatterns, gestures and formations. However, in reference to the definition of
language, animals do not follow any structures and are not capable of
critical thinking. Animal communication is only instinctive and limited which
goes astray with the characteristics of language. Language is distinct to
humans because animals do not have the biological foundation linked to
language learning and acquisition. Thus, animals do not have their
language. They only use sound-patterns, gestures and formations to
communicate to each other.

References
Boundless. (2016). Human vs animal language. Retrieved November 17,
2016, from
https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundlesspsychology-textboo
k/language-10/human-language-408/human-vsanimal-language-236-12771/
Das, L. (2006). Language and communication. Retrieved November 17,
2016, from
http://www.iitg.ernet.in/scifac/qip/public_html/cd_cell/chapters/lizadas
qip.pdf
Egnor, M. (2016). Do animals have language? Retrieved November 17,
2016, from
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2016/07/do_animals_have102990.html
Hedeager, U. (n.d.). Is language unique to human species? Retrieved
November 17, 2016, from
http://www.columbia.edu/~rmk7/HC/HC_Readings/AnimalComm.pdf
Kim, M. (2014). Chirps, whistles, clicks: Do any animals have a true
language? Retrieved November
17, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-ofscience/wp/2014/08/22/chirps-whistles-clicks-do-any-animals-have-atrue-language/
McLean, S. (2003). The basics of speech communication. United States of
America: Allyn & Bacon.