Can animals talk?


| 2 Comments
Earlier this month, the New York Times published an article about an elephant in South Korea who can "talk" - that is, he can mimic a handful of words that he has picked up from his human caretakers. 

The NYT gave examples of some of the Korean words that Koshik, the 22-year-old male elephant, can speak:

"His vocabulary includes "annyong" (hello), "anja" (sit down), "aniya" (no), "nuo" (lie down) and "choah" (good)."

Researchers at the University of Vienna conducted a study in which native Korean speakers wrote down what words they thought they heard elephant say, and their answers lined up with what everyone else thought the elephant was saying.

This lead me to wonder if there have been other cases in which animals have picked up words from humans, and if they've actually seemed to understand what they're saying.

There are a lot of reports from pet owners who claim their dog or cat has picked up a few words. A simple YouTube search will give you a ton of clips of dogs saying "hello", "I love you", and even "I want my mommy."



It seems as though it's not all that rare for animals who spend their lives around talking humans to start picking up a few words and mimicking them - similar to how babies start speaking.

While researchers have been able to teach animals to communicate with a human language by using computer programs, seeing as different species have unique cognitive abilities and vocal systems, teaching animals to audibly speak and visibly comprehend more than a handful of words has proved to be much more difficult.

Back to Koshik - while I have no doubt that this elephant can mimic the words he's probably had said to him all of his life, because he doesn't comprehend the meaning of these words, I don't find his ability to speak to be anymore interesting than any other cool trick. Furthermore, I'm really not buying this wild speculative conclusion from the researchers: 

"The researchers think that Koshik started imitating human speech out of a need to socialize. For seven years when he was a juvenile and at a critical stage in his development, he was the only elephant at the Everland Zoo."

Because it links the elephant's ability with his past living situation, this conclusion could be a product of the Texas sharp shooter problem. Having it come down to "a need to socialize" assumes that elephants and humans have similar socialization and communication needs. I'm not saying it's a completely off-base speculation, and there's definitely a chance that Koshik started speaking because he was lonely. But it would be difficult to thoroughly analyze an animal's past experiences and the effect of those experiences on his current emotions without more similar cases to study. 


2 Comments

Will it be true.? I just knew that there was a machine can help to express and translate the feeling of animale in the human language. And I bought one for my dog,it did work sometimes. Due to your blog, many animales can pick up a few words to mimick the human language. Also,I learned on the other aritcle that scientists have managed to teach some chimpanzees to speak using different sounds, sign language and computer keyboards. Some chimps can speak with as many as thirty different sounds and seem to be on the verge of human speech. They also use many different facial expressions and gestures like we do. But they don’t seem good at putting sentences together – this seems to be a very human trait. It sounds really amazing, and hard to belive.Imagine one day all the living beings in this world talk in one language.....While I have a question that can human talk in animal language?
Here is an article about when will we learn to speak animal language?http://hotair.com/headlines/archives/2012/08/18/when-will-we-learn-to-speak-animal-languages/

This would be a very interesting devoplement to keep track of as our technology progresses in the future. I think an interesting area you may want to look at is how some animals communicate now, and the similarities those communication methods have with our own human methods of communication ( both verbal and non verbal). There may be a reason as to why we are able teach some types of primates our own communication systems. this article seems to debate the ability if any of other species to actual learn sign language. http://www.ehow.com/about_5436028_monkeys-learning-sign-language.html

Is it possible that these animals mimic as a leaned behavior, like a dog learns to sit of a treat? Or do we have proof that these animals are actually understanding these communication methods?

Leave a comment

Subscribe to receive notifications of follow up comments via email.
We are processing your request. If you don't see any confirmation within 30 seconds, please reload your page.

Search This Blog

Full Text  Tag

Recent Entries

Hybrids
Everyone has heard of them as being the best car out there, mainly cause of gas prices. Hybrids are sweeping…
Break-Ups
People everywhere are breaking up, just in time for the holidays. And the more couples I see parting ways, the…
Pregnancy Tests
While browsing Andrew's blog and looking to see all of the posts that I missed (I'm pretty sure I haven't…

Old Contributions