Animal Communication

Animal Communication
   The Existence of Lexical Syntax in Nonhuman Species Is Problematical
   Given the widespread use of many subtly different, acoustically distinct vocalizations in different social situations, it seems logical to ask whether nonhuman primates or any other species ever combine vocalizations into compound utterances, and, if they do, whether they do so in accordance with a particular set of rules, or grammar. . . .
   Sequences of animal vocalizations can be of two types. . . . Phonological syntax does not require that the acoustic elements being combined ever be used in isolation or that they have any meaning when presented on their own. Further, it does not specify any relations between the meaning of elements and the meaning of calls created by their combination. By contrast, in lexical syntax the meaning of the compound call results from the sum of meanings of its constituent units. . . . To date, many studies of communication in animals have found evidence for phonological syntax; the existence of lexical syntax in nonhuman species is, however, much more problematical. (Cheney & Seyfarth, 1990, p. 125)

Historical dictionary of quotations in cognitive science. . 2015.

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