Bored? These Americans are teaching their dogs to talk

Source: The Guardian, via Marginal Revolution.

I have a theory that animals (and possibly plants) have language ability that is essentially the same as the one humans have. Based on the undergraduate classes I took in college, virtually all linguists disagree with me, but that’s OK. I began thinking up my theory because I disagreed with them, at least in some of their starting assumptions.

So I find this story fascinating. Pet owners around the world who are contributing to the They Can Talk project may begin to find evidence to support my view that language itself exists as a feature of the natural world that exists outside the organism.

9 thoughts on “Bored? These Americans are teaching their dogs to talk

  1. All living things, including plants, communicate. I have to dig up the studies, but there are trees and plants that change growth or reproduction methods or attractiveness in response to environmental changes or even predators. And then communicate that to other plants in the same ecosystem. And this is done in short order, not over weeks or longer.

    I am an unabashed dog lover. I know what my buddy wants because he has taught me well. Different pitches and volume of barks, grunts, whines tell me pretty much what he wants. He has a variety of sounds and uses them quite effectively.

    One thing that we learned is that a dog is not just learning for the few minutes at a time while we train it to obey certain commands. Rather it watches, listens and learns all day long. Not always what we want him to learn, but learn nonetheless.

    Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hey, I’m well with you on our fellow animals, but talking to your houseplants… meh, just don’t let anyone see you. One only need see an African Gray to know about birds. Birdbrain may well become a compliment.

    If no other animals ever form a “common language”, I firmly believe that the change in the relationship between dogs and humans witnessed in the last 50 years will eventually lead to “spoken” communication as surely as you are reading this.

    We know that dogs can associate our sounds to things and actions, e.g., go out, walk, ball, food,… and the big one, treat.

    With the little guy in my profile, he had 3 very distinctive barks for “I need to go out”, “i want to play”, and “I want a treat.” Not only could I distinguish them, I could mimic them, and elict the appropriate response from him. That’s not a trick. That’s rudimentary verbal communications.

    Now our other dog not only learned the out, food, play, treat, sounds but one that used to crack everyone up. “Impress the girls, Mick” would be followed by a belch that would shame a frat boy. Even our vet was impressed. We were concerned about gastric distress. Always meant to video it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. https://www.wired.com/2013/12/secret-language-of-plants/

      https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/may/02/plants-talk-to-each-other-through-their-roots

      And I noticed my plants listen to me only if I remove my Alcoa head over. Of course that makes me vulnerable to signals emanating from my microwave that has been appropriated by the deep state.

      So it is a balancing act for what is best for my plants despite the presence of CIA “plants”.

      Gotta go. My caretaker is bringing some meds…hooah. 😇

      Liked by 2 people

    2. That belch trick is funny. Especially on command.

      That proves that good training techniques pay off.

      Our 14 year old only has a few tricks. The one that tickles folks is his reaction when he toots. He will jump up, look around like a person who farts in an elevator. I guess he hasn’t connected the anal vibration with his own gas yet. Not much time left to figure it out.

      But we can’t command the action. “Max, toot…good boy” hasn’t worked yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Max, toot…good boy” hasn’t worked yet.”
        It may yet. We suspect that is how Mick learned. Mick was a beautiful dog. People would cross the street to pet him or give him food. No kidding. When he was maybe 6 months old, we were walking him when a woman came up, began petting him, and telling him how beautiful he was. He let go with something like Barney from the Simpsons. She laughed and said, “And can really impress the girls.” We adopted the line and would say it when he ripped one. By the time he was 3, it worked in reverse. we make no other claims.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Linguists almost universally make a distinction between communication and language. Language, they say, is complex. It has words, plus rules (grammar) for putting words together in ways to create novel meanings, which implies consciousness of time. Mere communication is too simple to qualify in all these particulars.

    To illustrate: A bird may shriek to signal to its flock that a predator is near. There may be different shrieks to signal different predators or different levels of danger. But while we may be tempted to think of bird sounds as words, birds have never been shown to combine their words in grammatical ways to produce novel statements. Thus, it is said, birds communicate, but they don’t speak.

    The They Can Talk project might show that dogs communicate grammatically, demonstrating that dogs have language. Understanding what dogs say would come later, and would be challenging, since dogs experience many things that we do not, and vice versa.

    But proof of language in dogs might also suggest that language is independent of the organism — that, in effect, humans and other living things communicate by hearing and responding to the same song.

    Like

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