Language Instincts: What’s in a name?

From September 18, 2006

The study of animal communication is the study of how – and why – information is transmitted between living organisms, whether of the same species or not. The bottlenose dolphin is one example of an animal studied for its chatty behaviour – it was recently shown that the signature whistles used by these social mammals may function like human names.

The name of this blog, on the other hand, is based on Steven Pinker’s book “The Language Instinct”. Pinker argues that human language is an evolutionary adaptation “hard-wired” into the human brain; what I plan to do here is explore the evolutionary reasons for various communication systems in the animal world. My goal is to post weekly on a different avenue of research in this field.

I have to admit that I’m no expert when it comes to the study of animal communication – the reason I chose to write about this topic is that it’s something that I’m interested in and would like to learn more about. Nevertheless, I hope this blog will be a good source of current findings to others who share my interest in biology and animal behaviour.

As a side note, one type of communication that will not be covered here is that between animals and humans, since it isn’t a major part of the scientific study of animal communication (although apparently a career can be made of the talent to communicate with animals, even by telepathic means!).