Dolphins Talking

.. nguistic communications are, by definition, intentional. Dolphins have been observed to have some of these intentional communication characteristics, as their behaviors have shown in captivity. For example, dolphins have been observed to squirt or splash water at strangers who come near their tank. After squirting the water the dolphin will raise itself out of the water to curiously observe what effect their behavior had on the stranger.

Although this behavior is not communitive, nonetheless, it seems to suggest that the dolphin is aware of the effect of its behavior on others, showing that it has the cognitive ability for intentional communication (Erickson, 1993). Communication between humans and dolphins occurs mostly through a gestural language that borrows some words from American Sign Language. The trainers make the gestures with big arm movements, asking the animal to follow commands such as person left Frisbee fetch, which means bring the Frisbee on the left to the person in the pool. In one study, two bottlenosed dolphins were tested in proficiency in interpreting gestural language signs and compared against humans who viewed the same videos of veridical and degraded gestures. The dolphins were found to recognize gestures as accurately as fluent humans, and the results suggested that the dolphins had constructed an interconnected network of semantic and gestural representations in their memory (Herman, Morrel-Samuels, & Pack, 1990). Such requests probe the dolphins understanding of word order and test the animals grammatical competence.

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It has also been determined that dolphins can form a generalized concept about an object: they respond correctly to commands involving a hoop, no matter whether the hoop is round, octagonal, or square. The animals seem to have a conceptual grasp of the words they learn, showing an understanding of the core attributes of human language, those being semantics and syntax (Erickson, 1993). Though this information seems compelling for dolphin language abilities, to determine whether or not they are capable of complex intentional communications, researchers must continue to investigate their receptive capacities, and to attempt to provide them with a communication system that would tap their productive capacities. Is interspecies communication possible? Could we someday be having philosophical discussions with a bottlenosed dolphin? Though these questions seem ridiculous, there was much debate over these questions when a medical doctor named John Lilly came out with hopeful findings of dolphin intelligence in the 1960s (Shane, 1991). In the first true research of dolphin communication and intelligence, Lilly set out to show that through the correlation of brain size and IQ, the bottlenose dolphin was perhaps smarter than humans and began a growing interest in dolphins and their language through whistles. Though dolphins are exceedingly intelligent creatures, no real scientific evidence has yet been found to totally support the many conceptions about the animals intelligence.

Lilly (1966) states, A dolphin . . . naturally uses other sounds to convey and receive meaning: creaking for night-time and murky-water finding and recognition, putt-putting and whistles for exchanges with other dolphins, and even air wailing to excite human responses in the way of fish or applause. If a dolphin is copying our speech, hell copy that part of what he hears which in his language conveys meanings.

Although this excerpt shows an incredible capability for dolphins to produce intelligent communication, it is findings such as these, which lack scientific support and have lost credibility among other dolphin researchers in the past few decades. Though his findings lack support, Lilly was important in bringing forth interest among people and therefore funds towards more scientifically based research and experiments that have helped us learn more about communication skills and intelligence of dolphins (Tyack et al. 1989). In order to clearly understand if dolphins are creating intentional, intelligent communicative sounds and meanings, it is necessary to break down the vocal signals into repertoires and analyze those individually. The breaking down of dolphin signaling into component units has just now begun and the task will be to discover if, when, and to what extent they structure formalized sequences of signal units. To determine whether they have a repertoire of grammatical rules that generates organized sequences will be difficult, and it will be necessary to obtain extended and continuous recordings.

Patterns must be found and compared to other dolphin recordings in order to obtain the most accurate and universal findings for language among bottlenose dolphins (Herman, Kuczjac II, & Holder, 1993). Through many more years of careful study of these sounds, it is hopeful that our scientists can determine capacities and meanings behind dolphin language. Though interspecies communication seems unlikely at this point in time, through new studies being conducted our conception of dolphins as communicative animals seems more possible. Intentional communication through gestural understanding is the best finding so far in the study of these intelligent animals, and leads many to believe there is a lot more to dolphins communication skills than has yet been uncovered. In tests done in mimicry and labeling of objects, it seems that the capacity the bottlenose dolphin has for learning and understanding is large enough to make taught communication a realistic goal in the future of dolphin training.

The highly specialized auditory and vocal mechanisms of the animal have helped lead the way to a better understanding of cetacean ear anatomy and sound production mechanisms, and these functions can now be seen as complex structures unlike any found above water. Though more research needs to be done before any true conclusions can be made about dolphin language, from what we do know the bottlenose dolphin is among the most vocal of nonhuman animals and exhibits remarkable development of sound production and auditory mechanisms (Schusterman et al. 1986). Bibliography 1. Brecht, M.

(1993). Communications: A Predictive Theory of Dolphin Communication. Kybernetes, 22, 39-53. 2. Erickson, D. (1993, March).

Can Animals Think? Time, 146, 182-189. 3. Herman, L. M., Kuczaj II, S. A., & Holder, M.

D. (1993). Responses to Anomalous Gestural Sequences by a Language-Trained Dolphin: Evidence for Processing of Semantic Relations and Syntactic Information. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 122, 184-194. 4.

Herman, L. M., Morrel-Samuels, P., & Pack, A. (1990). Bottlenosed Dolphin and Human Recognition of Veridical and Degraded Video Displays of an Artificial Gestural Language. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 119, 215-230.

5. Lilly, J. C., (1966). Lilly on Dolphins. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books.

Anchor Press/Doubleday. 6. McCowan, B., Hanser, S. F., & Doyle, L.R. (1999).

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Y. (1991). Interaural intensity and latency difference in the dolphins auditory system. Neuroscience Letters, 133, 295-297. 8. Schusterman, R.

J., Thomas, J. A., & Wood, F. G. (1986). Dolphin Cognition and Behavior: A Comparitive Approach. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

9. Shane, S. H. (1991). Smarts. Seafrontiers, 37, 40-43.

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Tyack, P. L.,& Sayigh, L. S. (1989). These Dolphins Arent Just Whistling in the Dark. Oceanus, 32, 80-83.