Friday, May 20, 2022

Key Concepts in Anthropology: Linguistic Anthropology – Human vs. Animal Communication

Hi everyone this is kirsten the anthropologist behind anthropology for you welcome to my video series key concepts in anthropology where i make anthropology topics easy to understand have you ever wondered about the difference between human .

And animal communication well this topic is part of linguistic anthropology which is the anthropological study of language and in this video i'll be talking a little about language and human versus animal communication so as people grow up they learn their .

Culture by being immersed in it this process is called enculturation and during enculturation people learn an important part of their culture language but what exactly is language i mean we all know what it is but how do you define it basically language is our system of communication .

It is the way we give other people information and the way we receive information from others language is special because it is part of what makes us human since we are the only organisms on earth that have language well you might ask don't other animals .

Communicate what about dolphins or chimpanzees well yes they do communicate along with ants bees and other organisms but their communication system is not as complex as ours here's an example other primates like chimpanzees and gorillas .

Communicate through something called call systems calls are sounds that non-human primates make that have meaning but there are only a certain number of sounds these primates can make and these sounds can't be combined like words can be combined into sentences .

So for example if there is danger the primate makes the call for danger and when there is food the primate makes the call for food but if both food and danger are in the same place the primate can't combine the two sounds to let others know that both food and danger are there .

So this is called a closed system of communication because the primate can't create new messages by putting together some existing messages so in our example the primate can't combine the message for food with the message for danger and make a new message .

About both human language is different it is an open system of communication we can send new messages that have never been said before for example i can say something like this the tiny blue elephant named harold jumped up and down on the fluorescent green bed .

This sentence has probably not been said before it's a new message made out of combining existing words and humans aren't limited to just a few messages like other primates are we can create an infinite number of messages all out of .

One set of sounds this ability to create an infinite number of new messages by combining other messages is called productivity also primate call systems are stimuli dependent which means that a certain call is only made when there is a certain stimulus .

For example the food call is only made when there actually is food but human language is different it has something called linguistic displacement this means that we can talk about things that are not present and we can talk about events that happen .

In the past and events that will happen in the future so the systems of communication of other primates are not as complex as ours other primates have closed systems of communication and do not have the language characteristics of .

Productivity and displacement but don't some primates know sign language what about that well the first chimpanzee who learned sign language was called washoe she was taught over 130 signs but probably the most famous primate who .

Learned sign language was a gorilla named coco who learned over 1 000 signs but primates don't learn sign language on their own they are taught it in very intensive training sessions with human intervention and even though some primates can use sign .

Language they don't use the complex sign language that humans do so some other primates do show some capacity for language but they don't have such a system in the wild however the more we study other primates the more complicated things become .

Here's an example human language involves something called cultural transmission which means our language is transmitted through learning and chimps who have been taught american sign language have tried to teach the sign language to other chimps .

Which shows that they are capable of the cultural transmission of language also coco the gorilla understood the concepts of past and future which showed that she was capable of linguistic displacement and washoe the chimp was able to put together signs she knew to make a new word for .

Example she called a duck a water bird this shows she was capable of the language characteristic of productivity and studies on primate communication have suggested that other primates can develop the language skills of a two or three year old human so perhaps other primates have more .

Language ability than we think still these primates are not using language in the wild and their communication is not as complex as ours so they don't have actual language in the same way humans do well that's all for now if you enjoyed .

This video then please like and subscribe and be sure to check out my website at where you can read my blog and find information on the anthropology online courses i teach thanks for watching goodbye you .


Most Popular