Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Another one bites the dust ...

... in the distinction between human behavior and animal behavior.  Specifically, it was supposed to be the case that animal calls were considered "not language" for lack of modularity.  They couldn't combine one type of call with another type to modify the message.  But Campbell's monkeys are indeed combining calls into long strings that convey different meanings and information based on the number and arrangement of calls in the string.  It's not a complete language; what they can "say" in it is still limited (as far as we know).  It is, however, one step closer.


I am particularly fascinated because this illustrates a suspicion I've long held: that one way human language could have evolved from animal calls would be to start stringing together the basic calls to create variations of meaning to describe common events more precisely.  That could later be followed by expansion to discuss more topics, and expansion of sounds used for such discussion.  Essentially it turns a call (which is the equivalent of a rote phrase or sentence) into a word or a phoneme (whose meaning can change in context).  That's a really important step because it introduces a new level of abstraction.
Tags: linguistics, nature, news, wildlife
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