Language is considered by many researchers to be unique human property. Close to the generally accepted point of view, according to which Homo sapiens is the only living species that has language in the literal sense of the word, that is, a communicative system acquired as a result of social experience, consisting of arbitrary signs that represent the external and internal world, organized according to grammatical rules and open, that is, allowing unlimited expansion of the repertoire. From a behavioral point of view, language is a system of spontaneous movements, consisting of certain units that can arbitrarily define objects, events, and intentions. Articulate speech and sign language of the deaf fit this definition. Lets see what is Human language vs animal communication.
It is very difficult to define the concept of language from an objective point of view since it is characterized by many necessary features. For example, one can agree that language is a means of communication, but it is obvious that not all means of communication are a language. Human language usually exists in the form of speech, but this is far from always the case. The language uses symbols, but some aspects of bee communication are also symbolic. People learn language during a specific sensitive period of development, but the same is observed in some birds that learn the song of their species. With the help of the language, it is possible to convey information not only about momentary situations but also about those that are distant both in time and space. But some alarm signals in animals have the same properties.
Difference between human and animal communication
1. Linguistic communication between people is not always biologically relevant, that is, there are often situations when communication between people is biologically insignificant.
2. Linguistic communication of people is closely related to cognitive processes. In animals, orienting (cognitive) processes are separated from those mechanisms and organs by which signs-messages are transmitted in animal communications. Communicative processes in animals are not involved in the construction of models of reality. A person already has perception, one of the first stages of sensory cognition, mediated by language. Human images are word images. Mainly on the basis of language, a person’s memory, imagination, attention, thinking function. During instinctive communication, animals reflect the world around them in a very limited way, they only respond to releasers – sign stimuli. Instincts are innate reactions to stereotyped situations.
3. Linguistic communication of people is characterized by both exceptional richness of content and richness of forms. A person can talk about anything, animals in their messages are limited exclusively to operational information (animals only talk about what is happening “here” and “now”). Timeless and long-term information is genetically assimilated in animals.
4. Human language has a multilevel structure, it is hierarchical: phonemes make up parts of a word (morphemes), morphemes make up words, and words make up preposition. This makes the speech of people articulate. In animals, indirect communication of individuals, there are no signs of different levels, that is, simple and complex, composed of simple ones. For example, in the languages of monkey herds, about 30 sound signals are used, corresponding to 30 standard situations (meanings), while all signs are not decomposable into significant components. In animal communication, a separate message is both a word and a sentence, that is, the message is inarticulate.
5. Both in stereotypical instinctive signaling situations and in life-acquired modes of behavior, animals emit signs unintentionally. So, for an animal that emits a danger signal, a cry of alarm does not mean danger but is the first part of the behavior that the animal takes in case of danger (the sign is not always distinguishable). The animal does not emit a cry of alarm to alert other animals to danger. A cry expresses the emotional state of a frightened animal. For the members of the pack, the cry of alarm has a symbolic meaning, it represents a certain situation, for example, the appearance of a predator.
6. Animals are incapable of metaphors and symbols, they do not have censorship of social origin, which produces the phenomenon of repression.
7. Animals do not have a special material substance for the plane of expression of the sign, except for the natural environment. The signs of the natural language of man are independent, autonomous from the world of things, have clear boundaries, and are easily distinguishable. The boundaries of animal signs can be distinguished only by their behavioral response. Signs used by animals for the purpose of communication are mostly not sound, as in humans, but olfactory (odor), visual and ultrasonic.
8. Sign systems of animals are closed, new signs are practically not added to them. Most animal signs are innate, instinctive, and only a small part of the acquired knowledge is passed on to the next generations during communication, as a result of imitation of relatives, as well as through a change in the habitat.