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HUMAN LANGUAGE VERSUS ANIMAL

COMMUNICATION

As long as people have wondered about the world, they have been intrigued by the mysteries
of human nature. The most commonplace activities of our lives- the things we take for
granted- can become quite puzzling when we try to understand them systematically.
Communication is one of the most applied methods of expressing a thought, information; it is
one of the everyday activities that intertwine human life.1
The concept has the meaning of sharing feelings, ideas and opinions with others. The word
itself derives from the Latin communis meaning common,either to exchange or to share
some sort of information. The term has also another etymological concept, communicare
that refers to participate, to attend, but nonetheless they illustrate the same thing.
Communication can be written, spoken or intellectual in nature. It is considered to be a social
need through which we express our ideas. This process implies two attendants, a listener who
receives the verbal message and a speaker who sends the message to the listener. Whenever
the message is transmitted, it activates the person and this response is the purpose of
communication. Each act of communication requires: a source that is the information, the
forming of the message and a person which receives it. It has a number of major dimensions,
beginning with the content, which indicates the information that is meant to be
communicated. We also have the source, which is the speaker, the addressor, who introduces
the content into a form and then he transfers it through a channel to the speaker with a certain
purpose expecting for a feedback or in other words for a response. This mechanism is present
in all living creatures and it is a fundamental and universal progress that is done at all the
stages, even at animals, where it is narrower. 2
Language is a highly developed system, which is possessed by each person for the sake of
communication distinguishing humans from other species through its unique form. It is a
well-structured form of communication that exists in different forms in each part of the world.

Stephen W. ,Littlejohn; Karen A., Foss ; Theories of human communication; 2008, 2005;
Thomson Wadsworth; Belmont
2
Dr. D. Ashalatha, Concept of communication

Animals also use this method, but their type of language is not as well organized as human
language, differing biologically from one another. Human language is considered to be the
most effective approach of transmission. The world language derives also from the Latin
lingua meaning tongue. It is one of the most well developed entities, which is in a
continuous progress, always adding new words and meanings in the course of time.
William Barnett considers verbal communication a condition of the existence of humans in
society, describing it as a revolutionary discovery caused by the advance of technology. It is
the procedure that enables man to make researches, to analyze information, gaining
knowledge then transferring it to the next generations. Linguists disclose the fact that human
language has different types of realizations, such as written and spoken form.
But there are also other living species that operate with the usage of communication and here
we include animals, whose languages are interesting and require research in order to be
understood.3
Animal language is divided into two systems: discrete and non-discrete, but the message
likewise the symbols they try to convey, are limited both in quantity and dimension. Their
communication system is instinctive; their qualities cannot be removed, these being inherited
from their type of species. In the case of humans, it is non-instinctive, because of their ability
to acquire and learn language, this being the result of social interaction. For instance, if a baby
grows up in the same time as a puppy, the child will be able to imitate the barking of the dog,
whereas the dog wont progress this ability.4
The famous Swiss linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure demonstrated that linguistic signs or words
are arbitrary, because there is no connection between the sound of a word and its meaning.
Onomatopoeic words are also regulated, even if they are words that are expected to sound like
what they represent. In English the sound uttered by the pig is oink, whereas in German the
pig sounds grunz. In other languages, the sound of the pig has been reduplicated, for
instance the Danish pig sounds f-f, the Dutch pig makes knor knor and in French groin
groin.5
3

http://johnsonmjose.hubpages.com/hub/The-difference-between-animal-and-humancommunication
4

http://malinotes.blogspot.ro/2012/07/difference-between-human-language-and.html

http://languagesoftheworld.info/language-and-mind/six-things-we-have-and-they-dontpart-1.html

As a result, human language has arbitrariness, which means that it is highly influenced by
geography, culture of a particular region, social and natural environment; therefore the
linguistic sign of an object differs from one language to another.6
Animal communication is non-arbitrary; it does not have any distinctiveness from one
language to another, each sign and message being alike. For instance the loudness of the
danger signal corresponds to how close the predator is. We, humans also have this type of
non-arbitrary symbols, such as road signs and pictograms that are world-wide known, so that
each person might be able to realize that it points to something in particular.
Another different feature is reflexivity that appears only at the level of humans, because
humans can think and express a thought through language, whereas animals are not capable to
reflect on their communication system.
The next design feature upon human language is displacement, which appoints that human
beings can easily talk about the past, present and future. They can freely discuss about things
that happened in the past, they can also imagine things, so fiction can also be included in
human speech. In the case of animals, they can only concentrate on two moments, on here
and now, they cannot think about something they have done in the past and express it.
Another thing that demonstrates the abilities of humans is telling lies, because it is a process
that does not refer to here and now, it is an imagined concept that animals cannot complete.7
Productivity is also an aspect that characterizes language, because human language is
considered to be open and one of the most productive methods of communication. Speakers
can create an infinite number of utterances which others can understand, whereas animals like
gibbons or apes have a closed communication system because all of their vocal sounds are
part of a finite repertoire of familiar calls.
Another important property of human language is cultural transmission that can be discussed
only at the level of humans, being the only possessors of this aspect. Cultural transmission
suggests that humans acquire words from their native language speakers. This is peculiar from
animal communication systems, because animals are born with the innate knowledge and

http://malinotes.blogspot.ro/2012/07/difference-between-human-language-and.html

http://languagesoftheworld.info/language-and-mind/six-things-we-have-and-they-dontpart-1.html

skills which are important for their survival.8As an example, if a seven week bird is not
exposed to bird song in these first weeks, later it will be incapable to learn them and the
sounds it will utter will be abnormal. In the case of a seven-year old child, who is not exposed
to language in the first seven years, he will be unable to develop it later, because language is
learned in the cultural environment, it is acquired.
Humans possess the ability of combining a set of phonemes concerning to produce new words
which can be transformed into an infinite number of sentences, while in the case of animals
this division is impossible, so human language has duality.9
To conclude my research paper, I have demonstrated that human language is more productive
at the level of communication than animals. The competences of humans cannot be compared
to animals, because human race has always been better developed, both in its spoken and
written form. Animals tend to communicate more through body language and a few vocal
sounds, while humans use many forms of channels of communication.
Humans are not born with the knowledge of language; they learn it with the span of time,
whereas animals are born with this instinct.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_F._Hockett#Hockett.27s_design_features_and_their_i
mplications_for_human
9
http://www.slideshare.net/JasmineWong6/animal-communication-and-human-language