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INVESTIGATION LIBRARY

TEXT 1: STEPHEN ANDERSON DESCRIBES COMMUNICATION AMONG BACTERIA TEXT 2: EDWARD O. WILSON ON ANIMAL DISPLAYS TEXT 3: DANCING HONEYBEE USES VECTOR CALCULUS TO COMMUNICATE TEXT 4: EDWARD O. WILSON ON CRICKET COMMUNICATION TEXT 5: COMMUNICATION IN BIRDS: CALLS AND SONGS TEXT 6: ALEX THE TALKING PARROT TEXT 7: JANE GOODALL ON CHIMPANZEE COMMUNICATION TEXT 8: WHAT IS LANGUAGE? WHAT IS SPEECH? TEXT 9: NEW WORDS FOR 2011 TEXT 10: STEPHEN PINKER ON THE NUMBER OF SENTENCES POSSIBLE IN HUMAN LANGUAGES TEXT 11: A DEFINITION OF SYMBOLISM TEXT 12: DAVID CHRISTIAN ON LANGUAGE AND COLLECTIVE LEARNING

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TEXT 1

STEPHEN ANDERSON DESCRIBES COMMUNICATION AMONG BACTERIA


Communication is virtually universal among living things. Even bacteria communicate. Some classes of bacteria secrete distinctive organic molecules, for which they have specialized receptors. This apparatus allows the bacteria to detect the presence of others of the same species, a system known in the literature as quorum sensing. Bacteria, it turns out, are like bullies who will not fight unless they are backed up by their gang. An attack by a small number of bacteria would only alert the hosts immune system to knock them out. So bacteria try to stay under the radar until their number are enough to fight the immune system. The molecules secreted by one bacterium serve to communicate its presence to the others. Stephen Anderson is a professor of linguistics at Yale University. He has published seven books on various topics in linguistics, and one of his many research interests is the communication abilities of non-human animals, an interest that led him to write Dr. Dolittles Delusion.
Source Stephen Anderson, Dr. Dolittles Delusion: Animals and the Uniqueness of Human Language (New Haven: Yale UP, 2004) 16, 20. Quotation from Andrew Pollock, Drug Makers Listen In While Bacteria Talk, New York Times February 27, 2001.

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TEXT 2

EDWARD O. WILSON ON ANIMAL DISPLAYS


According to E. O. Wilson, Most communication in animals is mediated by displays, which are behavior patterns that have been specialized in the course of evolution to convey information. These displays can take many forms: the hawk warning call of a songbird, the hostile eyelid flashing of a male baboon, the zigzag dance of a courting male stickleback are just a few examples. For many years scientists have studied individual species and tallied the distinctive displays they use to communicate. This chart provides a list of vertebrates and the number of displays that scientists have observed for each.

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Edward O. Wilson was a professor of biology at Harvard from 1956 to 2002. Professor Wilson is an expert on ants, and he has published numerous books and articles on various ant-related topics. In addition, he has published numerous important books and articles on topics in biology.
Source Edward O. Wilson, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2000) 183-184.

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TEXT 3

DANCING HONEYBEE USES VECTOR CALCULUS TO COMMUNICATE


Watch this video from the BBC on the unique form of communication employed by the honeybee. This video is about three minutes long.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NtegAOQpSs&feature=fvwrel

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TEXT 4

EDWARD O. WILSON ON CRICKET COMMUNICATION


In his discussion of communication, Wilson contrasts the complex singing of birds with the simpler singing of crickets, cicadas, and other insects. Because insects are tone deaf, they rely on volume and emission rates to differentiate the types of signals they send. The following graph illustrates how each cricket signal has a specific volume and emission rate.

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Edward O. Wilson was a professor of biology at Harvard from 1956 to 2002. Professor Wilson is an expert on ants, and he has published numerous books and articles on various ant-related topics. In addition, he has published numerous important books and articles on topics in biology.
Source Edward O. Wilson, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2000) 238.

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TEXT 5

COMMUNICATION IN BIRDS: CALLS AND SONGS


Birds have two types of sound signals: calls and songs. Bird calls consist of one or more short notes. These calls seem to be instinctive responses to danger, nesting, flocking, and a few other basic situations. The English sparrow has three flight calls. One call is used just before takeoff. Another call is used during flight. And one call is used just before landing at a nesting site. Sparrows have two types of danger calls. One call is used to announce that a predator is nearby, like an owl in a tree. The other call is used to announce that a predator is soaring overhead. These calls seem intended to coordinate group activity in specific situations. The meanings of these signs constitute a small, finite set that cant be increased. And bird calls cannot be done differently to produce variations of meaning. Bird songs are used primarily by males to attract mates or establish territory. Bird songs are limited to these and only these functions. Bird songs are longer than bird calls. But, like calls, their internal elements cant be varied and cannot be rearranged to produce new songs. Interestingly, although bird songs are inborn, and young birds naturally begin producing them at a certain age even if raised away from their species, the young bird must experience adult songs to reproduce the song perfectly. If the young bird is deprived of this input, it will grow up to produce the song naturally anyway but with obvious imperfections. Edward Vadja received his PhD in Slavic linguistics and has been teaching Russian language and linguistic courses at Western Washington University since 1987. He produced this handout on bird communication to help his linguistic students understand how animal communication compares with human language.
Source Adapted from a document created by Edward Vajda, Animal Systems of Communication II, Course Materials: Linguistics 201, Western Washington University. Accessed July 9, 2012. http://pandora.cii.wwu.edu/vajda/ling201/test1materials/animal_communication.htm..

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TEXT 6

ALEX THE TALKING PARROT


Watch this video from the PBS series Scientific Frontiers on the communication skills of a parrot named Alex. This video is about three minutes long.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGiARReTwBw&playnext=1&list =PLFBD7317CA3EFF34A&feature=results_main

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TEXT 7

JANE GOODALL ON CHIMPANZEE COMMUNICATION


Sometimes, when watching chimpanzees, I have felt that, because they have no humanlike language, they are trapped within themselves. Their calls, postures and gestures, together, add up to a rich repertoire, a complex and sophisticated method of communication. But it is non-verbal. How much more might they accomplish if they could talk to each other. It is true that they can be taught to use the signs or symbols of a humantype language. And they have cognitive skills to combine these signs or symbols into meaningful sentences. Mentally, at least, it would seem that chimpanzees stand at the threshold of language acquisition. But those forces that were at work when humans began to speak have obviously played no role in shaping chimpanzee intellect in this direction. Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees at the Gombe Stream National Reservation in Tanzania for over 40 years. Her numerous books and articles on chimpanzee behavior have revolutionized the human understanding of chimps and forced scholars to rethink many long-held views on the uniqueness of humans in the animal world.
Source Jane Goodall, Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990) 208.

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TEXT 8

WHAT IS LANGUAGE? WHAT IS SPEECH?


Language is different from speech. Language is made up of socially shared rules that include the following:

W  hat words mean (e.g., star can refer to a bright object in the night sky or a celebrity). How to make new words (e.g., friend, friendly, unfriendly). H  ow to put words together (e.g., Peg walked to the new store rather than Peg walk store new). W  hat word combinations are best in what situations (Would you mind moving your foot? could quickly change to Get off my foot, please! if the first request did not produce results).

Speech is the verbal means of communicating. Speech consists of the following:

Articulation How speech sounds are made (e.g., children must learn how to produce the r sound in order to say rabbit instead of wabbit) Voice Use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound (e.g., the voice can be abused from overuse or misuse and can lead to hoarseness or loss of voice) Fluency The rhythm of speech (e.g., hesitations or stuttering can affect fluency)

Source What Is Language? What Is Speech? The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 19972012. Accessed July 8, 2012. http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/language_speech.htm.

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TEXT 9

NEW WORDS FOR 2011


Every year the editors of the worlds dictionaries update their word lists, adding words that they recognize as a common part of public discourse. The following is a sample of the words added to the Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary in 2011: boomerang child bromance continuous positive airway pressure cougar crowdsourcing duathlon fist bump helicopter parent m-commerce parkour robocall social media tweet walk-off
Source New Dictionary Words for 2011. Merriam Webster, An Encyclopedia Britannica Company, 2012. Accessed July 8, 2012. http://www.merriam-webster.com/info/newwords11.htm.

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TEXT 10

STEPHEN PINKER ON THE NUMBER OF SENTENCES POSSIBLE IN HUMAN LANGUAGES


Go into the Library of Congress and pick a sentence at random from any book. Chances are you would fail to find an exact repetition no matter how long you continued to search. Estimates of the number of sentences that an ordinary person is capable of producing are breathtaking. If a speaker is interrupted at a random point in a sentence, there are on average about ten different words that could be inserted at that point to continue the sentence in a grammatical and meaningful way. (At some points in the sentence, only one word can be inserted, and at others, there is a choice from among thousands; ten is the average.) Lets assume that a person is capable of producing sentences up to twenty words long. Therefore the number of sentences that a speaker can deal with in principle is at least 1020 (a one with twenty zeroes after it, or a hundred million trillion). At a rate of five seconds a sentence, a person would need a childhood of about a hundred trillion years (with no time for eating or sleeping) to memorize them all. Stephen Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard University and taught previously at Stanford and MIT. He has written 12 books and numerous articles on language, the mind, and human nature. His research interests include language and cognition.
Source Adapted with minor modifications from Stephen Pinker, The Language Instinct (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1994) 85-86.

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TEXT 11

A DEFINITION OF SYMBOLISM
The relationship between symbols (signs) and their cultural meanings is called symbolism. Spoken and written languages are essentially symbolic systems because they are constructed from basic symbols. Spoken language, for example, is made up entirely from sounds. The sounds are used in various combinations to form words and more lengthy units such as sentences and narrative texts. Spoken languages are symbolic systems because meaning is attached to these combinations of sounds.
Source Michael Shaw Findlay, Language and Communication: A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1998) 181-182.

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TEXT 12

DAVID CHRISTIAN ON LANGUAGE AND COLLECTIVE LEARNING


At the moment the most powerful marker, the feature that distinguishes our species most decisively from closely related species, appears to be symbolic language. Many animals can communicate with each other and share information in rudimentary ways. But humans are the only creatures who can communicate using symbolic language: a system of arbitrary symbols that can be linked by formal grammars to create a nearly limitless variety of precise utterances. Symbolic language allowed people for the first time to talk about entities that were not immediately present (including experiences and events in the past and future) as well as entities whose existence was not certain (such as souls, demons, and dreams). The result of this sudden increase in the precision, efficiency, and range of human communication systems was that people could share much more of what they learned with others; thus, knowledge began to accumulate more rapidly than it was lost. Instead of dying with each person or generation, the insights of individuals could be preserved for future generations. David Christian is a professor of history at Macquarie University in Australia. He began teaching a big history course at Macquarie in 1989 and is one of the co-founders, with Bill Gates, of the Big History Project. At this point in the course, you should be very familiar with him!
Source David Christian, This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity (Great Barrington, Mass.: Berkshire Publishing Group, 2008) 8.

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