Miss Porter's SchoolClass of 2024Farmington, Connecticut
- "How is language learned, processed, and used across different species, and what are some ways to facilitate cross-species communication? " with mentor Severine (Sept. 8, 2022)
How is language learned, processed, and used across different species, and what are some ways to facilitate cross-species communication?
Started Mar. 8, 2022
Abstract or project description
Language is coined as an ability unique to humans. However, studies have begun to show that other animals, including species of birds and primates, have complex languages with morphosyntactic syntax. Moreover, animals, especially those in symbiotic and predatory relationships, use and respond to other species' languages: as exhibited through alarm calls. Communication is any interaction between 2 or more organisms that cause a change in behavior. This paper examines the evolution of communication behaviors with hopes of better understanding language as a social behavior that’s not unique to humans. First, some similarities and differences in how animals learn and interact with their own language, including human infants, are surveyed. Differences and similarities in vocal, reinforcement, and social learning are discussed. Next, whether those comparisons contribute to the evolution of communication-related biological structures or not is discussed. Finally, some possibilities to facilitate interspecies communication using technology are explored. Since animals in social systems that require more cooperation show more communicative behaviors, a variety of animals are reviewed to present a variety of life-history categories including slow vs fast development, dependency on parental care, immature vs mature perception systems at birth, social structure, monogamy, parental care system, etc, with a focus on multicellular vertebrates. This paper pushes the limit that language is unique to humans and focuses on non-anthropomorphizing methods, and could have great implications for improving our understanding of the evolution of language with applications in improving animal welfare and AI. Future directions such as research in invertebrate communicative behaviors, plant, and bacteria communication, etc will be introduced.