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eBook Doctor Dolittle's Delusion: Animals and the Uniqueness of Human Language download

by Stephen R. Anderson

eBook Doctor Dolittle's Delusion: Animals and the Uniqueness of Human Language download ISBN: 0300103395
Author: Stephen R. Anderson
Publisher: Yale University Press (August 11, 2004)
Language: English
Pages: 368
ePub: 1616 kb
Fb2: 1714 kb
Rating: 4.5
Other formats: mbr mobi lit lrf
Category: Different
Subcategory: Science and Mathematics

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Next he examines a variety of animal communication systems, including bee dances, frog vocalizations, bird songs, and alarm calls and other vocal, gestural, and olfactory communication among primates.

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In this enjoyable and informative book, Stephen Anderson incisively states the way that diverse areas of study have helped illuminate the question of communication by animals and our communication with them. -Diane Brentari, Purdue University.

Doctor Dolittle’s Delusion Animals and the Uniqueness of Human .

Stephen R. Anderson is professor of linguistics, psychology and cognitive science at Yale University. Popular Science Out of Print. By: Stephen R Anderson. Publisher: Yale University Press.

A masterly overview of what is currently known about the communicative abilities of a wide range of creatures.

Can animals be taught a human language and use it to communicate? Or is human language unique to human beings, just as many complex behaviors of other species are uniquely theirs? This engrossing book explores communication and cognition in animals and humans from a linguistic point of view and asserts that animals are not capable of acquiring or using human language.
Comments: (5)
For those who believe that gorillas are "just this close" to writing Shakespeare, this book is a good wake-up call. In it, Anderson discusses the amazing communicative abilities of a number of animals, but concludes that we really can't call this "language," for a number of reasons. Like so many, I have enjoyed the Doctor Dolittle books immensely, and it is fun to imagine talking to animals. But it seems an impossibility. This is not just a religious or species-centric prejudice. As Anderson points out, "Actually …linguists would be delighted and intrigued to discover language in other primates – or cockroaches, for that matter. When we look closely, however (and experimenters have tried awfully hard), that is not what we find. It appears to be an empirical result, not just an anthropocentric prejudice, that human language is uniquely human." (page 4)

As a veteran professor of linguistics, Anderson is well qualified to discuss what the nature of language is, and he keeps this to a somewhat popular level. His chapter on Syntax is probably the most challenging for the non-linguist. His other chapters discussing the nature of language are more accessible, and give the layman a good idea of what we really mean when we talk about human language. One illustration is that human languages have syntax, words arranged in a particular order. We say "the red book," not "book the red." Beyond that, languages have more structure. We can say "The cat on the mat is sleeping," and "the cat on the mat" is a phrase that can move as a unit ("I see the cat on the mat") or we can substitute a single pronoun for this multi-word phrase ("It is sleeping.") Furthermore, we can have phrases within phrases ("The cat on the mat by the door in that room...") All human languages can do this type of thing. This is one of the two major themes of the book - what are we really talking about when we use the term "language"?

The other theme is a survey of some of the amazing animal communication systems out there - honeybees' "tail-wagging dance" that indicates whee other bees should go to find food, birdsong structure, and primates' communication in the wild. He concludes that none of these exhibit syntax and a number of other characteristics of language, when rigorously examined.

He also spends a chapter on attempts to teach apes sign language in experimental settings. This alone might be worth the price of the book, especially debunking the overblown claims about Koko the "signing gorilla." Koko's trainer, Penny Patterson, has never released her experimental data, and we are left with unsubstantiated claims and over-interpretations.

I would recommend this book as a good readable approach to the whole subject of what animals can and cannot do. They can do some pretty amazing things, and Anderson celebrates those. But let's not call it "language."
Absolutely enjoyable read. Great insight onto linguistics,human language and animal communication. Fascinating to learn how complex animal communication is on the one side, and on the other side, it is far from the intricate and discrete combinatorial system that human language is.
A nice mixture of research and anecdotes for a layman like me. I will always respect animal communications, but better understand now why animals will never truly talk.
This book is an interesting and effective examination of linguistics and the human language. It focuses a lot on what define human language and why animals do not truly have the capacity to communicate in the same way humans can. This book does give and interesting insight into some forms of animal communication but it focus mostly on the syntax and diction that fuse for form the arbitrary and structural uniqueness of human communication.

Overall a solid and interesting book if your looking for introduction to human linguistics.
Professor Anderson asserts that Dr. Dolittle might have been able to 'talk to animals' but they could not talk back. I enjoyed Rex Harrison as the kindly animal doc in the Disney movie, and the song in particular. He points out that it was Hugh Lofting's 'fictional' character who could communicate perhaps with all of his animal friends, but they, in turn, were unable to use intelligible language.

I've owned cats on a daily basis for more than twenty-five years now and they do talk to me. They do understand English (I swear) and their meows mean something as well. It's just that I don't know 'cat talk.' It's not merely a response; when Star awakens from a dream, she runs to me with a whole string of meows to be soothed. I explain that it was only a dream and she settles down right away. It's all in the interpretations, usually they want your attention, food, or could be informing you that something may be wrong. She lets me know when she hears an unusual sound. And she minds me real well.

He discusses sign language as a way of communicating with gestures called 'signing,' that apes possibly use a similar way of getting what they need. Frogs make their distinct noises, birds sing, bees buzz and 'dance.' Some birds can talk and mimic humans, but I'm not sure they know what they're doing; it appears they are 'entertaining' to get people's attention.

Understanding of the minds of others emerges in human infancy. Austistic children lack this ability of comprehension. Language skills require interaction with early experience and the autistic child can not express his needs verbally.

Human language is indeed unique, but sometimes regional dialects get in the way. There are so many foreigners in America today, they don't even try to speak English. Why should they? We all talk differently and can hardly understand each other. I remember while growing up in Knoxville that I and my idol, Bob Lobertini (a t.v. personality), had trouble pronouncing the "L" sound. We just left it out. Recently at a dinner, I heard a grown woman call 'salmon' 'samon' and I commented on it. Just because I moved away and learned to enunciate clearly instead of shy mumbling, the natives here assume I'm from "up North." I certainly don't sound like a New Yorker or Pennsylvanian, but I do talk differently -- as we all tend to speak the way we hear others talk, and it "rubs off" after awhile.

It takes intelligence to work through the ambiguities of phrases as units instead of words fitted together to form a sentence. If you move a phrase, it can cause a different meaning to the whole thing, or can clear up any misunderstanding. Many English expressions are ambiguous. But so are the verbs in another language. That's what trips me up.