View Full Version : Elephants have "spoken" language

28-04-10, 11:01
Science Daily : Elephants Have Word for 'Bee-Ware' (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100427093106.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily% 3A+Latest+Science+News%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher)

For the first time elephants have been found to produce an alarm call associated with the threat of bees, and have been shown to retreat when a recording of the call is played even when there are no bees around.
'The calls also give tantalising clues that elephants may produce different sounds in the same way that humans produce different vowels, by altering the position of their tongues and lips,' said Dr Joseph Soltis of Disney's Animal Kingdom. 'It's even possible that, rather like with human language, this enables them to give superficially similar-sounding calls very different meanings.'

This is one further step to convince sceptics that animals are able to communicate through a form of language. It is very likely that the song of dolphins and whales is a veritable language of its own - or actually a series of languages and dialects as in humans. Birds have much smaller brains, so bird songs are probably more primitive in their range of content, but nevertheless qualify as languages too.

The human ear is one of the least developed in the animal kingdom. We barely perceive a fraction of the sounds a cat or a dog can hear. This may be why feline miaouw and canine barking and howling may appear simple and repetitive to us. Humans who grew up with different mother tongues are usually unable to distinguish sounds not found in their native language (e.g. the Japanese have a hard time telling 'r' and 'l' apart). If we can't even hear properly other human tongues, how can we be expected to recognise fine nuances in animal languages using completely different sound frequencies ?

28-04-10, 11:34
Ooo ooo ooo!

Can we do some elephant jokes!

Like the cabbages one?

Cambrius (The Red)
28-04-10, 22:31
Who will go first? ... :thinking:

29-04-10, 02:21
Here is my stub at it. :rolleyes2:

Nice article but that's nothing unusual, almost all mammals and birds have different sounds for their everyday purposes. Different sounds for danger, love courting, pleasure, food find. Heck even the bees have dance language for food, direction and distance and consider their brain size. Animals like dogs can understand much more than they can “say”. They can’t say “yellow ball” but you can teach a smart dog to fetch yellow ball among other toys. Actually parrots are known to demand and say correctly in human voice what they want. There are examples of parrots saying “Bye” when seeing people dressing up to go out. I even read about parrot saying “see you tomorrow” or “you come tomorrow” to people it liked very much. It shows understanding concepts like time and other intelligence to say that. Unbelievably birds have very efficient brains considering the size.
About primates, the smarter chimpanzees can learn about 300 words in sign language, unfortunately can’t communicate in words like parrots. It means that they don’t have good long term memory, but they use these signs logically with understanding. It’s a far cry though, from what people can do with spoken or sign language. 30 000 words in human vocabulary is nothing unusual.
Less is known about sounds and communication of see mammals. Their songs and squeaks don’t make sense to us yet. I can bet that dolphins have certain vocabulary, but I wouldn’t put too much hope of them having something comparable to people language. They roam, hunt and behave more like wolfs than building civilizations like humans.
For some reason, about 2 millions years ago, our ancestral hominids started communicating vocally, and after crossing some threshold it turned to be so useful that our ability to speak skyrocketed to the current level. I wonder how our level of speech changed in last 10 000 or 5 000 years. Did we reach useful maximum after which any improvement is not useful? Is there a limit? Will we speak faster and more eloquent in future? Or maybe speech is an indicator and a mirror of other cognitive abilities of our brain. Possibly we started talking to express more refined chain of thoughts, compared to other mammals. Possibly it coincided with development of superior memory, that allowed us expressing funny or exiting stories, planning together, organizing, commend, and other functions which make group stronger.
With recent genetic evaluation of genome of Neanderthal and Homo Erectus in general, scientists concluded that they could speak. Most likely the only other species on earth that we could communicate verbally (speaking whole sentences) with understanding.
Too bad we ate them all. :grin:

Answering Maciamo’s question, it’s not much about hearing but about higher cognitive functions of human brain, let’s say it’s about understanding of the world. The more we understood the more we spoke as species. Look at animals, how they behave, how smart they are in everyday functions, and pretty much they will communicate at the level of their thinking and behavior. Looking at whole animal kingdom at the moment there is none specie to be able to communicate at human level, not even close.

29-04-10, 08:11
Who will go first? ... :thinking:
“Elephant Jokes” are actually a genre of humour that is at the same time banal and highly intellectually attractive, and while the subject of the “joke” may be (and often is) an elephant, it is not essential.

In all cases they have a paradigm shift as a key aspect of the humour.

For example, “Why to elephants paint their feet black? ….. so that you can see them when they’re upside down in a bowl of custard”

A variation on the joke, but still an Elephant joke, is “what’s yellow and very dangerous? ….. Shark infested custard.”

A classic example of a slightly more sophisticated (can you use that word when discussing Elephant jokes?) goes …

An elephant ran away from circus in an out of the way town in the US and ended up in a back garden.

The boy who lived there and who had never seen an elephant before ran in to where his dad was.

"Come quick!" he shouted, to his dad.

"There is a big funny cow thing in the yard picking up cabbages with its tail an’ if I tell you where he’s stuffing them you’ll whop me!”

30-01-12, 04:29
My cats use a surprisingly complex group of sounds for communication with each other and with my wife and I.
Chirps, throaty sounds, purring, Squawks, howls, Miaows and even shrieks.