This article is going to show the Characteristics of human language and animals communicate side by side and answer the questions does the animals speaking? Or not? And what does make human language different from animals’ language?
Now, what is meant by language? Commonly speaking, it refers to the language of ‘flowers’, the language of music, ‘body language, and the like. A human being can communicate in various ways: they can wink (glitter/ twinkle),i.e., they use their eyes to express themselves or they wave smile. They even may use their shoulders to express themselves; either to show their dissatisfaction, rejection, or disgust. Actually, this is known as the ‘Psychology of communication’, and this is not our case.
human language is characterized by specific features compared to animal communication:
It seems that there is a strong link between the actual signal and the message an animal wants to convey. Each animal produces a specific signal to express its attitude (job/message). In contrast, in human language, there is no link between the signal and the message. The symbols used are arbitrary. For example, there is no basic connection between the word elephant and the animal it symbolizes. (aitchison, 2003)
- The need for learning
The systems of communication of animals are genetically inbuilt (natural/inherent)-the process of communication is almost natural for all animals for example bee-dancing is the same in different parts of the world. However, the learning process for human language is culturally transmitted. A human being brought up in isolation (separation) simply does not acquire language as is demonstrated in some studies that children brought up by animals without human contact. Human language is entirely accustomed (trained) by the surroundings. Nevertheless, there is some innate inclination (tendency) towards language in a newborn child. But this hidden potentiality(ability) can be activated by long exposure(contact) to language, namely, careful learning. (aitchison, 2003, pp. 14-21)
Most animals use each basic sound only once. As such, the number of messages an animal can send is limited to the number of basic sounds plus a few simple combinations. In other words, an animal can produce but only( restricted) a few messages. In contrast, human language works differently. It is based on phonemes. A phoneme is meaningless in isolation. It becomes meaningful only when it is combined with other phonemes, for example, f, g, d ,o mean nothing separately. Once combined together in various ways as fog, dog, and god they carry meaning. This characteristic is called duality or (double articulation). This system is capable of producing a lot number of messages and it is highly flexible in enriching human language.
Most animals can communicate about things in the immediate environment, that is to say, the present time only. A bird utters its danger only at the present time; it cannot give information about the past and the future. In addition, it cannot give information about another place or environment. By contrast, a human being can express himself about things that happened in the past as he can express himself in the present time. This phenomenon is known as ‘Displacement’. Thus, it is a characteristic of human language. Nevertheless, some bees can inform other bees about the exact location of the nectar. Yet, even bees are limited in this ability. (aitchison, 2003, pp. 14-21)
Normally, animals have a limited number of messages. For instance, the male grasshopper has a choice of six messages. Those messages can be translated into 1. I am happy, life is good 2. I would like to make love and so on. Actually, these are signals to convey their messages. Still, these signals are limited. We as human beings translate these signals into (messages or functions). Indeed, such limitation (restriction) is not found in human language. Humans have the ability to create or produce new words to express themselves. A person can change his wordings and his style accordingly; he is free to choose from his diction (wordings). He is not obliged to say the same thing (the same word) every time. As such, creativity is limited to human language; it is not a property of animal communication.
The animal communication system comprises a simple list of elements. There is no flexibility within this system-that is to say, this system is almost limited. In contrast, human language is not produced at random. Humans can do changes in well-defined patterns. To consider the sounds( a, b, s, t), there are only possible ways to arrange these sounds: bats, tabs, stab, or bast( inner bark of lime). All other possibilities are excluded such as*sbat,*abts, *stab, and *stab (an asterisk/star) indicates an impossible word or sentence. Additionally, English does not allow sb in the initial sequence. Typically, in English, there are combinations/patterns to be followed. Thus, this is a characteristic of human language. (aitchison, 2003, pp. 14-21)
- Structure Dependence
It is clear that language operations are structure-dependent –they depend on our understanding of the internal structure of a sentence rather than on the number of elements involved. Actually, this property does not exist in animal communication. In this respect, this property in human language seems to be more complicated. It involves more items according to each state. Human language vs. animal communication (aitchison, 2003, pp. 14-21)
- In animal communication, there is frequently a connection between the signal and the message sent and the system is mainly genetically inbuilt(inherent/natural). In human language, the symbols are mostly arbitrary and the system has to be transmitted from one generation to another. Duality and displacement-the organization of language into two layers. To summarize: language is a patterned system of arbitrary sound signals, characterized by structure dependence, creativity, displacement, duality, and cultural transmission. This is common to all languages, which are remarkably similar in their main characteristics. (aitchison, 2003, pp. 14-21)
- Human language is innately guided. Human infants are not born speaking. But they know how to acquire any language to which they are exposed. In contrast, animals are not born equipped (prepared) with an inbuilt mechanism; they are pre-programmed to fulfill the task of communication by signals not by talking. (aitchison, 2003, pp. 14-21)
Aitchison, J. (2003). linguastics. US: McGraw-Hill Companies.