Doctor Dolittle’s Delusion: Animal Communication and Human Language
Public Lecture with Professor Stephen Anderson, Yale University.
A recurrent theme in literature and the popular press is the notion that the communicative behavior and abilities of a wide range of non-human animals deserve to be called “language” and treated as comparable to what we do. When we look at the facts of animal communication, however, and compare the properties of these systems with the essential characteristics of human language, the gulf between them is quite impossible to bridge, even with the good will and determination of a Doctor Dolittle. In this talk, I will survey a range of the wonderful and ecologically appropriate ways in which animals communicate, and point out the ways in which the properties of human language that give it its power in our lives are absent in these systems.
Listen to Podcast
Listen to Professor Stephen R. Anderson from Yale University as he delivers his guest lecture as part of the Distinguished Visitors Program, on Dr Dolittle's Delusion: Animal Communication and Human Language'.
About the presenter
Stephen R. Anderson is the Dorothy R. Diebold Professor of Linguistics and Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University, where he has taught since 1994. He previously held positions at Harvard, UCLA, Stanford and Johns Hopkins; his (1969) Doctoral degree is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served as President of the Linguistic Society of America in 2007. He is an elected Fellow of AAAS, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Linguistic Society of America, and the Association for Psychological Science. He is the author or co-author of seven books and around 125 articles. His research interests focus on the place of human language in the biological world, including comparisons with the communication systems of other species and the evolution of the human language faculty, in addition to areas of linguistic theory including phonology, morphology and syntax.