Doctor Dolittles Delusion Animals and the Uniqueness of Human Language

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Name:Doctor Dolittles Delusion Animals and the Uniqueness of Human Language

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Can animals be taught a human language and use it to communicate? Or is human language unique to human beings, just as many complex behaviors of other species are uniquely theirs? This engrossing book explores communication and cognition in animals and humans from a linguistic point of view and asserts that animals are not capable of acquiring or using human language.

Stephen R. Anderson explains what is meant by communication, the difference between communication and language, and the essential characteristics of language. Next he examines a variety of animal communication systems, including bee dances, frog vocalizations, bird songs, and alarm calls and other vocal, gestural, and olfactory communication among primates. Anderson then compares these to human language, including signed languages used by the deaf. Arguing that attempts to teach human languages or their equivalents to the great apes have not succeeded in demonstrating linguistic abilities in nonhuman species, he concludes that animal communication systems—intriguing and varied though they may be—do not include all the essential properties of human language. Animals can communicate, but they can’t talk.

Winner of the 2004 Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division Annual Award Competition in the Psychology category


“Reading Anderson’s book is a highly satisfying experience. . . . The book as a whole is very readable. For a user-friendly introduction to animal communication and the uniqueness of the human language, one can hardly do better than read Anderson.”—Anne Reboul, Linguist List

"A masterly overview of what is currently known about the communicative abilities of a wide range of creatures. . . . Anderson's synthesis provides illuminating comparisons with the infinitely more sophisticated resources of human language. . . . [An] elegant book."—Neil Smith, Nature

"This is a very well-written, well-argued, and provocative book about the evolution of human language. It is strongly interdisciplinary. . . . I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone interested in animal communication and the evolution of language. Agree or disagree, this volume will make readers think deeply about the evolution of human language, where it came from, and what the data from animal studies really mean."—Marc Bekoff, Quarterly Review of Biology

“This deeply informed and lucid book not only is an outstanding introduction to human language and to animal communication, but also identifies clearly and persuasively essential properties that distinguish them, and the enormous significance of these properties for human thought and life.”—Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT

Doctor Dolittle's delusion : animals and the uniqueness of human language
By Stephen R. Anderson, Amanda Patrick, ebrary, Inc
Published by Yale University Press, 2004
355 pages

Stephen R. Anderson is professor of linguistics, psychology, and cognitive science at Yale University.

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