Directions: Now answer the questions.
1. What does the professor mainly discuss?
A. The findings of a study on prairie dog communication
B. The way that mammals learn to make warning cries
C. Features that distinguish language from animal communication systems
D. Various types of signals used by animals to communicate with each other
2. Why does the student mention a research project she studied in a biology class?
A. To point out similarities in the behavior of rodents and monkeys
B. To explain how she first became interested in animal communication
C. To introduce an instance of an animal species that might have language
D. To show how she applied her knowledge of linguistics in another course
3. What is the professor’s opinion of a recent study of prairie dogs?
A. She finds the study interesting but is not convinced that prairie dogs can communicate.
B. She thinks that some claims made by the researchers are not supported by their findings.
C. She sees the study as proof that mammals other than humans possess a form of language.
D. She thinks the researchers misinterpreted the high-pitched barks as warning signals.
4. What does the professor say about the individual units that make up human languages?
A. They can be combined to create an infinite number of new messages.
B. They are not capable of being reproduced by members of any other species.
C. They function in the same way as the signals all animals use to communicate.
D. They are acquired instinctively without having to be learned.
5. The professor uses the sentence, “Move the large coyote fast,” in order to illustrate two features of language. What are they? Choose 2 answers.
6. Listen to Track
A. To see if anyone knows the answer to the student’s question
B. To suggest that the student is using the wrong terminology
C. To express frustration because she has already answered a similar question
D. To determine whether she has been speaking clearly enough
Listen to part of a lecture in a linguistics class. The professor has been discussing animal
OK, so last time we covered the dances honeybees do to indicate where food can be found, and the calls and songs of different types of birds … Today I’d like to look at-at some communication systems found in mammals—uh, particularly in primates such as, uh, orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas… um, yes, Thomas?
Excuse me, professor, but … when you talk about gorilla language, do you mean, like, those experiments where humans taught them sign language, or-or a language like…
OK, OK, wait-wait-wait just a minute—now, who in this class heard me use the word “language”? No one, I hope—what we’re talking about here are systems of communica-tion, alright?
Oh, sorry, communication, right . . . uh, but could you maybe, like, clarify what the difference is?
Of course, that’s a fair question … OK, well, to start with, let’s make it clear that language is a type of communication, not the other way around. OK, so all communication systems, language included, have certain features in common. For example, the signals used to communicate—from the bees’ dance movements to the words and sentences found in human language—all these signals convey meaning. And all communication systems serve a purpose—a, uh, pragmatic function of some sort—warning of danger, perhaps, or offering other needed information.
But there are several features peculiar to human language, that have, for the most part, never been found in the communication system of any other species. For one thing, leamability: Animals, uh, animals have instinctive communication systems; um, when a dog, a puppy gets to a certain age, it’s able to bark. It barks without having to learn how from other dogs. It just … barks. But much of human language has to be learned, from other humans. What else makes human language unique? What makes it different from animal communication? Debra.
Uh, how about grammar? Like, having verbs, nouns, adjectives…
OK, that’s another feature and it’s a good examp—
… I mean, I mention this ’cause, like, in my biology class last year, I kinda remember talk-ing about a study on prairie dogs, where …
I think. . . the researchers claimed that the warning cries of prairie dogs constitute language because they have these different parts of speech—you know, like nouns to name the type of predator they’vespotted, uh, adjectives to describe its size and shape, verbs, um … but now it seems like—
Alright, hold on a moment ….m familiar with the study you’re talking about—and for those of you who don’t know, prairie dogs are not actual dogs; they’re a type of rodent who-who burrow in the ground in the grasslands of the western United States and Mexico.
And, uh—in this study, the researchers looked at the high-pitched barks a prairie dog makes when it spots a predator. And from this they made some pretty—well, they made some claims about these calls qualifying as an actual language, with its own “primi-tive” grammar. But actually these warning calls are no different from those found among certain types of monkeys. And—well, let’s not even get into the question of whether concepts like “noun” and “verb” can be meaningfully applied to animal communication.
Another thing that distinguishes a real language is a property we call discreteness. In other words, messages are built up out of smaller parts—sentences out of words, words out of individual sounds, etc. Now maybe you could say that the prairie dog’s message is built from smaller parts. Like, say for example our prairie dog spots a predator—a big coyote, approaching rapidly. So the prairie dog makes a call that means “coyote,” then one that means “large,” and then another one to indicate its speed. But do you really suppose it makes any difference what order these calls come in? No. But the discrete units that make up language can be put together in different ways … those smaller parts can be used to form an infinite number of messages—including messages that are com-pletely novel, that’ve never been expressed before. For example, we can differentiate between “A large coyote moves fast” and, say, um, hmm … “Move the large coyote fast,” or “Move fast, large coyote!”—and I truly doubt whether anyone has ever uttered either of these sentences before. Human language is productive—an open-ended communication
system—whereas no other communication system has this property.
And another feature of language that’s not displayed by any form of animal communica-tion is what we call displacement—that is, language is abstract enough that we can talk about things that aren’t present here and now—things like, “My friend Joe is not in the room,” or “It’ll probably rain next Thursday.” Prairie dogs may be able to tell you about a hawk that’s circling overhead right now, but they’ve never shown any inclination to describe the one they saw lost week
Listen again to part of the lecture. Then answer the question.
when you talk about gorilla language, do you mean, like, those experiments wherehumans taught them sign language, or-or a language like …
OK, wait-wait-wait just a minute—now, who in this class heard me use the word “language”?
Why does the professor say this:
now, who in this class heard me use the word “language”?