Science & Mathematics » Zoology » What is the evidence, pro and con, as to whether nonhuman animals have a capacity for language?

What is the evidence, pro and con, as to whether nonhuman animals have a capacity for language?

Below is the recommendation and reference answer for question "What is the evidence, pro and con, as to whether nonhuman animals have a capacity for language?" It was collected and sorted by the editor of this site but not sure the answer is entirely accurate.

You will have to define language, bees communicate through movements that can tell others the direction of a food source. Is that "language?" Do you define language only as the communication of symbolic concepts?

Your question is too vague.

Apes can learn sign language like hearing disabled people use. They don't just "parrot" things and "baby talk" either -- they create new words that make sense, they make jokes, they have sensible conversations. And, when they have children, they teach signing to their children and have sensible conversations with their children.

Parrots can and do talk human words, some in context, plus understand more than they verbalize. Primates can use sign language. Scientist Lily said dolphins communicate five different ideas to each other in five different voices at the same time. Depending on your definition, just about all animals have some sort of language of their own.

We have ample evidence, during this current Presidential election, that sheep can mimic the words of their masters, although there is no evidence that the sheep can actually comprehend the words they mimic.

It's in "The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker.

A chimpanzee has a vocabulary of over 140 human words on a special typewriter for it, fully understanding what it communicates,and constructs sentences. (verified)
A simple honey bee can tell others where to find a source of pollen and nectar, direction and distance.
Many many other examples of 'communication' among animals as well.

Language as in 'the species understands basic things being conveyed' ?

Or language as in 'the animals/birds/squid/etc. are conversing'?

not nearly as complex as human languages. but most animals communicate via motion, noises, etc

Dolphins have a more complex language than humans , we are only just beginning to decipher bits of it.
Sperm whales talk in clicks and we have determined what about 23 of those click combinations mean.
Chimpanzees have been taught sign language and in at least one of those cases the Mother passed on it's use to one of it's offspring. Think there is fair evidence that language as we use it exists between some animals.
Bees actually have a language that is about as complex as human language though it is not verbal in any respects it is still communication.

There is a difference between "animal language" and "animal communication". Animals can communicate, but that is not language. Perhaps the best known critic of "Animal Language" is Herbert Terrace. The simpler explanation according to Terrace was that the animals had learned a sophisticated series of context-based behavioral strategies to obtain either primary (food) or social reinforcement, behaviors that could be over-interpreted as language use.