haidut

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A nice article showing that the one of the most uniquely human aspect of our existence - language - is actually a capacity that much "lower" animals possess as well, and may be even more adept than us at using. Apparently, prairie dogs are not only capable of verbalizing sentences with just about the same complexity as us, but also speak different dialects/languages depending on the group under observation. In fact, their language is so rich that scientists think they can build a device that translates from prairiedog-ese to human-ese :):

The Linguistic Genius of Prairie Dogs

"...Con Slobodchikoff, PhD, has been studying prairie dogs for over 30 years. His studies have focused primarily on Gunnison’s prairie dogs, whose natural habitat is just outside the doors of Northern Arizona University, where Slobodchikoff is a professor emeritus. After first observing how a colony of prairie dogs reacted to the presence of predators, he discovered that they didn’t just give the same alarm call each time – it sounded different depending on what type of predator the prairie dogs saw. But that wasn’t the full extent of the calls’ complexity. Slobodchikoff also noticed that even though the calls signaling a certain type of predator would follow a distinct pattern, they contained small nuances that varied with each individual predator of that type. For instance, the prairie dogs had a similar call for all coyotes, but there were subtle differences for each different coyote. Based on this observation, Slobodchikoff had a sudden insight: “What if they’re describing the physical features of each predator?” A bit of experimentation soon proved his suspicions. After putting dogs, humans, and simple shape cutouts of all different forms, sizes, and colors within sight of the prairie dogs, analysis of the prairie dog calls revealed that the unassuming squeaks of alarm were rich with information.2,3 “They’re able to describe the colour of clothes the humans are wearing, they’re able to describe the size and shape of humans, even, amazingly, whether a human once appeared with a gun… In one 10th of a second, they say ‘Tall thin human wearing blue shirt walking slowly across the colony.'” What’s even more interesting is that the “language” of prairie dogs is not ubiquitous. It is unlikely that different species of prairie dogs would be unable to understand the calls of each other. Slobodchikoff bases this theory on a comparison of sonograms from various species of prairie dogs, all of which were different even though the calls were describing the same things. Just like humans, prairie dogs seem to have many different languages. Slobodchikoff is working to create a translation device that could potentially decode all of these prairie dog languages, as well as those of other animals, to make them understandable for humans."
 

Regina

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A nice article showing that the one of the most uniquely human aspect of our existence - language - is actually a capacity that much "lower" animals possess as well, and may be even more adept than us at using. Apparently, prairie dogs are not only capable of verbalizing sentences with just about the same complexity as us, but also speak different dialects/languages depending on the group under observation. In fact, their language is so rich that scientists think they can build a device that translates from prairiedog-ese to human-ese :):

The Linguistic Genius of Prairie Dogs

"...Con Slobodchikoff, PhD, has been studying prairie dogs for over 30 years. His studies have focused primarily on Gunnison’s prairie dogs, whose natural habitat is just outside the doors of Northern Arizona University, where Slobodchikoff is a professor emeritus. After first observing how a colony of prairie dogs reacted to the presence of predators, he discovered that they didn’t just give the same alarm call each time – it sounded different depending on what type of predator the prairie dogs saw. But that wasn’t the full extent of the calls’ complexity. Slobodchikoff also noticed that even though the calls signaling a certain type of predator would follow a distinct pattern, they contained small nuances that varied with each individual predator of that type. For instance, the prairie dogs had a similar call for all coyotes, but there were subtle differences for each different coyote. Based on this observation, Slobodchikoff had a sudden insight: “What if they’re describing the physical features of each predator?” A bit of experimentation soon proved his suspicions. After putting dogs, humans, and simple shape cutouts of all different forms, sizes, and colors within sight of the prairie dogs, analysis of the prairie dog calls revealed that the unassuming squeaks of alarm were rich with information.2,3 “They’re able to describe the colour of clothes the humans are wearing, they’re able to describe the size and shape of humans, even, amazingly, whether a human once appeared with a gun… In one 10th of a second, they say ‘Tall thin human wearing blue shirt walking slowly across the colony.'” What’s even more interesting is that the “language” of prairie dogs is not ubiquitous. It is unlikely that different species of prairie dogs would be unable to understand the calls of each other. Slobodchikoff bases this theory on a comparison of sonograms from various species of prairie dogs, all of which were different even though the calls were describing the same things. Just like humans, prairie dogs seem to have many different languages. Slobodchikoff is working to create a translation device that could potentially decode all of these prairie dog languages, as well as those of other animals, to make them understandable for humans."
I always feel guilty about scolding my dog for his 'reactive' responses. The poor guy. He's not wrong. He knows the environment is harsh, but he's stuck on the other end of the leash. A translation device would help humans who bring dogs into their world actually understand. (as opposed to a Cesar Milan notion of 'he's trying to be alpha'). The translation device would spit something like this out, at least for my dog: "Oh cripes. Not this jerk-off again. Please, can't we go the other way. No, he does NOT 'just want to say "Hi". He's a POS and really should be a pariah of the community; yet you humans act like he's cute?!?!?! And oh I'M the aggressive one because I'm appropriately risk averse. Geez, humans are so thick."
 

Runenight201

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Seems like they’ve specialized in communicating physical object recognition which has served to protect their species well.

I think it’s a bit of a stretch to think these animals are more adept at using language than us. Most of our use of language is not in communication whatsoever, but actually in the form of abstract thought, which as far as I know is a uniquely human trait. Unless one has dabbled for years in meditation and has purposely learned to NOT think, practically all of our use of language exists up in the constant thoughts we have! These prairie dogs would have developed communication language as a useful survival mechanism, especially being pack animals

I was reading an introduction to linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania and it stated that primates have a typical vocabulary of around 10 words and have a closed language that doesn’t allow for the introduction of new words. Further more their language is ubiquitous across geographic regions among scattered populations, so it seems like these prairie dogs certainly have more complex communication language compared to lower primates. Anyways, when I see a prairie dog start chirping why it exists on this earth or what love is than I’ll have to pull my jaw off the ground!

How or why we developed abstract language is a mystery that I don’t think has been solved, but one im interested in.
 

Literally

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Someone has claimed that the *average* domestic dog knows about 200 English words.

IIRC from hearing about the prairie dogs and some related stuff, they are using algorithms developed to analyze/hack unfamiliar network protocols.
 

Kartoffel

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Someone has claimed that the *average* domestic dog knows about 200 English words.

IIRC from hearing about the prairie dogs and some related stuff, they are using algorithms developed to analyze/hack unfamiliar network protocols.

If Ray can tell a kitten to look at itself in the mirror, I think adult dogs will have a bigger vocabulary, and at least basic understanding of human syntax and semantics ;)
 

Literally

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Syntax -- maybe not. I think you can randomly reorder words with most dogs and it doesn't affect their response.

I used to know a guy who could tell his dog to get his bowl (pipe), bag, or ball for example and it always seemed to get the right thing.


 

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