What Do Animals Talk about?

Of course, we don’t have enough knowledge to provide the exhaustive list of topics that animal communication in nature covers. But certain issues are known to be raised within the comminication systems of different species. Naturally, these topics do not include the neighbour’s new haircut. The capacity to communicate about such relatively unimportant things seems [...]

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Rocky the Sea Lion: Part 2

In the previous post we started discussing artificial language learning by a sea lion named Rocky. We saw the types of signs and the set of artificial sentence structures that Rocky successfully interpreted. Let us now take a look at anomalous sentences that have been given to Rocky and see what conclusions can be drawn [...]

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Rocky the Sea Lion

Can animals be taught a simplified version of language? And if they can, then which properties will that language have? Can they acquire lexicon? Can they acquire grammar? These issues have been investigated in the course of animal language studies. Such studies were conducted with apes, African grey parrots, dolphins. The topic is extremely controversial. In [...]

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Lewis Carroll on Non-Referential Nouns

How do we define a noun as a part of speech (as opposed to a verb or an adjectives)? One superficially attractive way, often used at schools, is to say that, roughly, nouns describe, or refer to, objects, whereas verbs describe actions and adjectives, properties. And indeed, for prototypical nouns, this would be true. Table, [...]

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Language and Linguistics in Lewis Carroll’s Works

Lewis Carroll, or Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was a mathematician, a logician and a deacon. His knowledge of logic and amazing sensitivity to properties of natural language make his works full of jokes and passages that are based on various linguistic phenomena. As a semanticist, I can say for sure that almost any topic in semantics [...]

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Bee Dance

In the previous post, we have discussed the communication of read ants. Let us now turn to honeybees, whose communication system is very famous. Here, we know not only what kind of information foraging bees can provide but also how the information is encoded. The first person to decode the so-called bee dance was Karl [...]

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Communication and Numerical Competence of Ants

The so-called bee dance constitutes the most well-known example of an intricate communication system used by insects. By repeating movements of certain kinds, bees succeed to transmit information about the source of food (distance + direction), as well as its quality. But today I’d like to talk about a less well-known, but apparently no less [...]

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Modality in Jokes: Part 2

In the previous post we started talking about jokes and riddles that are based on different types of modality. We introduced two kids of modality – deontic and epistemic. Additional two types which, too, have found their realization in jokes are dynamic and logical modality. Consider the following joke, one that plays with different types [...]

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Modality in Jokes

Some jokes and riddles play with the range of interpretations available to modals. These are auxiliary verbs expressing necessity and possibility, such as can, may and must. This post is devoted to the kinds of necessity and possibility that modals can express, and to jokes that are based on the resulting ambiguity and/or indeterminacy. Epistemic [...]

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More on Cheating in the Animal World

We talked about the significance of the ability to lie in one of the previous posts. I am now reading the book “Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind” by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Roger Lewin, and the authors introduce several examples of deception in the world of apes. I’d like to share these stories [...]

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