ANIMAL COMMUNICATION AND LANGUAGE TEACHING TO ANIMAL
Animal communicate through a wide variety of means. In general, they have the same reason in communicate with one another. At basic, they communicate to get food, to find mate, to warn, to threaten, etc (Steinberg, Nagata, and Aline, 2001:160). Many animal use sound signal, but many also use other modalities substances involving smell as signal, as in the case of ants. Visual signal may be used by dogs and body movement may be used by bees. Animal are obviously able to communicate at some level with one another, even sometimes with human being as well.
If animal have their own system of communication, is it possible to teach them some sort of human language? Several studies which have been conducted show that although animals do naturally can talk like human being, this does not mean that they are incapable of talking human language. Scientists have made attempts to teach language to chimpanzees. Such scientist attempts were conducted by psychologist in the 1920s through 1940s. The result of other examination will be discussed in here.
1. Animal Language
The characteristics that distinguish human language are obvious when it is compared with animal communication system. Animals are clearly able to communicate at basic level, with one another and/or with humans. The message they convey, however, are usually very limited in scope and can be interpreted only in the context of the immediate situation. There are several researches to see how animals communicate with each other:
Ø Sensing Electricity
Using a sense very different from either hearing or vision, certain fish communicate and sense their surroundings with electricity. “Just as the eyes are organs that evolution has fine-tuned and engineered to optimally detect light, ears are optimal organs for detecting sound, and taste buds are chemical receptors, these fish have very sophisticated receptor organs for detecting electric fields,” says physiologist Dr. Brian Rasnow, now at Amgen.
A wide variety of fish can detect electric current. Some, like the shark, use the sense to “see” prey. Some sharks can detect a field as weak as “five nano volts per centimeter, which is equivalent to stretching out a one-and-a-half-volt battery over 30,000 kilometers,” Rasnow says.
But some fish have taken their electric sense a step farther; they produce electricity. Electric eels have been known since before humans understood the nature of electricity. Some smaller, gentler cousins also produce electric fields, albeit weak ones. Two families of freshwater fish have evolved the ability to create electric fields around their bodies. Their ability to sense minute changes in these electric fields, the fields of other electric fish, the weak fields produced by all living things and disturbances in all these fields produced by inanimate objects in their environment, makes up a sense and a system of communication as different from vision as hearing is from vision and as different from hearing as vision is, Rasnow says.
Weakly electric fish live in muddy water and only become active at night. In this lightless environment, weakly electric fish use their electric sense like many other animals use sight or hearing, to “see” where they are going, to find prey, and communicate with each other. They can distinguish the electrical discharge of their own species, and can further determine the size, sex, maturity and even possibly the individual identity of any fish of their own species that passes by. Each fish, in other words, broadcasts many aspects of its identity in fluctuations and characteristics of its electric field. This sense, however, has its limits.
Some females try to sneak in to lay eggs among those of the dominant female. These females remain electrically quiet. If the royal couple drives them off, sneaker females will lay eggs elsewhere, in which case, her eggs remain unfertilized. Non-mating females thus appear so excited by the male’s electrical love song that they lay eggs even in the absence of a male. In laboratory playback experiments, scientists can duplicate this effect, playing a love song that causes lone females to lay eggs in an aquarium.
Another species, this one a bottom dweller, shows different mating behavior. A male will mate with any female who responds to his call. Successful fertilization in this species is complicated compared to most fish. She lays only one egg at a time, and the male must fertilize it just as she lays it, or it spurts to the river (or aquarium) bottom to remain unfertilized. To signal the male, the female chirps just as the egg is about to emerge.
Swimming in a muddy river and relying on your electric field can pose a problem, however. What happens if another electric fish swims by? Your frequencies may overlap. “It’s like CB radio when the channel is too noisy,” Rasnow says. “The only sensible thing to do is switch to another frequency.” Scientists studying electric fish call this the Jamming Avoidance Response (JAR). Two passing electric fish change frequencies, each moving its frequency slightly away from the others. This response functions as a reflex, like the leg-jerk reflex when the doctor taps you on the knee. On the other hand, electric fish sometimes synchronize their frequencies, for reasons scientists have yet to fathom.
Ø Fish and sound
Fish also communicate with sound, for example is toadfish. Toadfish make two other sounds. Grunts, warnings that apparently tell rival males to back off or potential predators to stay away, last only two tenths of a second. The so-called boat whistle lasts nearly a second, may attract females as well as humming does, and might identify individuals. In the distantly related bicolor damselfish, females can distinguish individual male chirps and males can tell the chirp of their nearest neighbor from the vocalizations of more distant males.
Fish sounds function mainly in mate attraction, but are also used in school coordination, and they travel well under water. Scientists have observed fish responding to a sound signal from half a mile away.
Fish produce sounds in a variety of ways, often with organs much less specialized for the task than the vocal apparatus of other vertebrates. Grunts appear to come from grinding teeth, the sound amplified by the air-filled swim bladder. And special muscles in or near the swim bladder itself can cause it to vibrate like a drumhead.
Fish hear or feel sound in two ways. Some have small bones connecting the inner ear to the swim bladder, creating in effect a single large ear. Fish have no outer ears, and therefore no need for the middle ear bones that connect the eardrum to the inner ear. But they do possess an inner ear similar to those of other vertebrates.
But fish also detect vibrations in the water with a unique lateral line system similar in many ways to our inner ears, where organ of hearing in our inner ears forms a coil that of fish lies stretched out along its side. The lateral line tube stretches the length of a fish, and sometimes branches around its head. The tube connects to the water by way of small pores in the skin and scales. Mucus fills the tube, just as in our cochlea. When a pressure wave strikes the fish, it jiggles the mucus and bends small hairs that project into the mucus in bunches. The hairs trigger nerve impulses, which travel to the brain. While fish cannot determine the location of a sound detected through the single swim bladder, they can locate sounds detected by way of the lateral line.
The biologists, Loki Osborn and Russel A. Charif of the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell University, watch with relief. They had broadcast a call recorded from a female in estrus, but neither they nor the rest of their team, videotaping in a tower near the water hole, heard a thing. The sound, below the lower threshold of human hearing, forms part of the remarkable infrasonic communication system of elephants.
Humans can hear many elephant calls, from the famous shrill trumpets to low groans. But until Katherine B. Payne of Cornell analyzed a tape she’d made of Asian elephants at Portland, Oregon’s Washington Park Zoo, no one knew that the deepest elephant sounds we hear, called grunts or rumbles, were merely the mild overtones of sounds so low and powerful they travel unhampered for miles through Asian forest. African elephants use similar signals.
Elephants live in layered societies, and like any social animal must communicate. These largest of land animals communicate with every sense: touch, taste, smell, vision and hearing. All work at close range, within a small band of elephants browsing together, or between mother and calf, or mating male and female, for example. With their long trunks, elephants can keep track of odors on the ground as they walk head up, and they routinely touch and smell each others’ bodies with their trunks.
But it was their sense of hearing that baffled early naturalists and makes long-distance communication—and therefore elephant society and mating—possible. Small groups of related adult females and their young of both sexes form the basic unit in elephant society, called a family. Females remain in families for life. The family often contains three generations, and may remain stable for decades or even centuries. Families associate with one to five other families, probably consisting of more distant relatives. These so-called bond groups in turn belong to larger groups, called clans.
William Langbauer, of the Pittsburgh Zoo, and several colleagues, including Charif, has characterized several specific infrasonic calls based on when they occur and how elephants hearing these calls react. Elephants appear to produce their extremely low-pitched sounds with a larynx similar to those of all mammals, but much larger.
When individual family members reunite after being separated, they greet each other enthusiastically, and the excitement increases with the length of time separated. They trumpet, scream and touch each other. They also use a greeting rumble, which begins at a low 18 Hz, crests at 25 Hz—just audible to humans—and falls back to 18Hz. An elephant attempting to locate its family uses the contact call, a relatively quiet low tone with a strong overtone audible to humans. Immediately after contact calling, the elephant will lift and spread its ears and rotate its head, as if listening for the response. The contact answer is louder and more abrupt than the greeting call, trailing off at the end. Contact calls and answers may continue for hours until the elephant successfully rejoins her family. At the end of a meal, when it’s time to move on, one member of a family moves to the edge of the group, typically lifts one leg and flaps her ears. She repeats a “let’s go” rumble, which eventually rouses the whole family, who then hit the road.
Unlike the highly social females, males leave their families at about 14 years of age. They travel alone or congregate in small loose groups with other males, occasionally joining a family on a temporary basis. When males come into musth, they wander widely, searching for receptive females.
Females typically come into estrus only once every four years, and then for only four days. So competition is intense, and males must have some way of finding mates from long distances. A male in musth repeats a distinctive set of calls called musth rumbles, listening for a response afterward. Males who hear this sound keep away, as bulls in musth are aggressive and dangerous. Females, however, answer with the so-called female chorus. This consists of several females answering with a call similar to the greeting rumble, but somewhat lower. Females will also give this call when a musth male joins their group or when they smell the strong urine of a musth male. A male homes in on the female chorus, hoping to find a female in estrus. After mating, the female rumbles out the post-copulatory sequence, a group of six grunts with strong overtones. She repeats this sequence several times, continuing for up to half an hour.
All of these calls serve as short-range communication in elephants. Documenting the effectiveness of long-range communication has proved technically difficult, however, even among radio-collared elephants. Despite the difficulties, says Charif, “Elephants may routinely know the whereabouts (and maybe activities) of other elephants that are several miles away from them. When a biologist in the field observes the behavior of a group of elephants, s/he may be missing a lot of subtle long-range interactions.”
2. Teaching Language to Animal
Scientists have made attempts to teach language to animals. Such attempts are motivated by their curiosity whether animals have their own language for communication. They also curious whether human beings can teach them some sort of human language. Such curiosity has led scientists to conduct serious investigations on the possibility that animals can be taught human language. For example:
1. N’kisi project
The N’kisi Project is a series of controlled experiments and ongoing research in interspecies communication and telepathy conducted by Aimee Morgana and her language-using parrot N’kisi. The images shown above are stills from the video document "Initial Interspecies Telepathy Experiments", a research project with the collaboration and support of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake.
N’kisi is a captive bred, hand raised Congo African Gray Parrot. He is 4-1/2 years old, and his species has a life span similar to humans. He has received teaching in the use of language for 4 years. He is now one of the world’s top "language-using" animals, with an apparent understanding and appropriate usage of over 700 words. Aimee intuitively taught N’kisi as one would a child, by explaining things to him in context. (This goes beyond typical interactions with a "pet", involving many hours per day of teaching and conversations.) He is treated as a member of the family. N’kisi was not trained like a performing animal, and does not just mimic or use speech "on cue". Instead, he has been allowed to develop his own creative relationship to language as a means of self-expression. N’kisi speaks in sentences, showing a grasp of grammar in formulating his own original expressions. He is capable of actual conversations. He often initiates comments about what we are doing, feeling, looking at, thinking, etc, which is how we discovered his ability to read minds. N’kisi often demonstrates telepathy in spontaneous situations, and also communicates love, compassion, and a keen sense of humor. Language-using animals are like "animal ambassadors" helping to bridge the worlds of other species with our own. In the wild, parrots live in large flocks with complex social interactions, which have yet to be studied.
Interspecies Telepathy Experiments
N’kisi would often describe what Aimee was thinking about, reading, or looking at in situations where there were no possible ordinary clues. When Aimee saw Rupert Sheldrake’s book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home she contacted him, and they collaborated in designing an experiment to try to replicate and document this phenomenon under controlled conditions. Based on a pre-specified list of key words, a selection of photographs depicting items from N’kisi’s unedited vocabulary was prepared, sealed in opaque envelopes, then randomized and numbered by an independent party. No one knew what image was in any of the envelopes, which is known as a "double blind" test. In a series of timed two minute sessions, Aimee was videotaped as she looked at these images, while another synchronized camera filmed N’kisi in his cage. Aimee was in an enclosed room on a different floor, with no possible line of sight for any ‘cueing’. Their locations were approximately 55 feet apart, and separated by several solid walls. In responding to the tests, N’kisi generally put target keywords and descriptions in related sentences, and he often described a detail at the exact moment that Aimee noticed it. N’kisi appears to telepathically "surf" the leading edge of Aimee’s consciousness, responding to the spontaneous moment of discovery rather than to any consciously projected thoughts. Aimee found that her state of mind was critical, and if she intentionally tried to "send" the information, it wouldn’t work. N’kisi responded best when Aimee’s full attention was genuinely immersed in exploring the images, without any thought of the experiments. Three independent transcripts were made of each test session, and there was a remarkably good agreement between the transcribers. These transcriptions were done "blind", meaning the transcribers did not know what pictures Aimee was looking at, nor when each trial period began and ended.
Analysis and Scoring of Experiment Results
"Hits" and "misses" were scored when at least two out of three transcribers verified that N’kisi had said one of the 19 key words used in selecting the images, such as "flower". N’kisi said one or more of these key words in 71 trials, and the statistical analysis is based on these tests. (We discarded several trials with the target "camera", as N’kisi often made direct comments about the cameras we were using). As an animal, N’kisi could not be expected to fully understand the experiment parameters, and there was no guarantee of his participation. Our experiment design left him free to say whatever he wished during the sessions. Non-scorable comments consisted of N’kisi’s attempts to contact Aimee, or unrelated chatter about events of the day. "Hits" were key words corresponding to the image Aimee was looking at during a particular trial. As there was no way for N’kisi to understand the need to restrain his comments to the strictly timed two-minute test period for each image, many of the "misses" scored were his continued repetitions of "hit" comments from previous images in the session. Assuming N’kisi was saying these words at random, there would have been 7.4 hits. In fact, he scored 23 hits. This result is highly significant statistically. Using the standard binomial test, the odds against chance are one million to one. Statistician Jan van Bolhuis at the Amsterdam Free University also kindly carried out a Randomized Permutation Analysis for us, in which N’kisi’s comments were randomly assigned to the test images in 20,000 different permutations run by a computer. Only 5 of these randomized permutations gave 23 or more hits. In this extremely objective method, the probability of the result we observed was less than 0.0005, or in other words, the odds against this result being due to chance were more than 2,000 to one. However, these strict scoring methods ignore many of N’kisi’s most interesting responses. For example, in one image of a car, the driver’s head was sticking out of the car window. Just as Aimee noticed this unusual detail, N’kisi said "Uh-oh, careful, you put your head out." Although this is clearly relevant, our scoring method allowed only the pre-specified target word, "car". Including these comments, possibly relevant responses were made in 32 of the 71 trials.
As this study was strictly controlled against cues from any normal sensory means, and chance coincidence has been ruled out, these experiments provide compelling evidence of interspecies telepathy. This phenomenon is currently unexplained within the dominant scientific model. We are continuing our research and documentation of this astonishing phenomenon, as Aimee and N’kisi’s ongoing work exploring avian language use opens a fascinating new window into our understanding of the animal mind. The fact that these experiments statistically prove that N’kisi’s use of speech is not random also gives evidence of his sentience and intentional use of language. Though our work is just beginning, N’kisi has already shown aspects of intelligence that animals were thought to be incapable of, particularly a species that shares so little genetic similarity with humans. Globally, parrots are the most endangered of all birds, with the greatest number of species currently facing extinction due to poaching and habitat destruction. We hope our work will help people to realize the amazing abilities and awareness of these intelligent birds, and encourage greater care of these precious beings and the planetary environment we share.
Humans can talk about anything they like and anytime they want. This important property does not exist in animal communication system. The researches with animals clearly indicate that animals have only a rudimentary language capability.
Most animals in the wild have a fixed number of signaling systems which convey a set fixed number of messages and these messages are sent in clearly fixed circumstances. Most animals, which are taught human language, indicate that they can only reach a very elementary level of human achievement. They cannot advance further than that.
ARDIKA RIZKY SAPUTRI
SCHOOL OF TEACHER TRAINING AND EDUCATION
MUHAMMADIYAH UNIVERSITY OF SURAKARTA