There have been so many species of animals that have been trained by humans. Through this they follow commands and actions that sometimes can replicate those of human’s. I was wondering, are they learning from example? Or can these animals actually learning human communication?
Adriano Lameira observed an orangutan named Tilda. When observing her, Lameira noticed Tilda clap her hands together and let out human like sounds from her throat. when researching this topic, I saw that Lameira took audio recordings of Tilda. Tilda only make these noises when she was in the presence of her caretakers. Although the dialogue is not completely recognizable, Lameira describes them as clicks and faux speech. I was very excited to hear the audio recording but was disappointed when I finally did. Listening here. Can you make out a distinction of human noises?
Irene Pepperberg also worked with animals famous for mimicking human sounds, parrots! Pepperberg worked with Alex, an African grey parrot. Pepperberg says that parrots are able to mimic human speech so well is because of their tongue, as it is thicker than some animal’s. Pepperberg would teach the parrots by allowing them to see an interaction between two children, the parrot could then learn and produce the sounds.
Sam Ridgway studied speech mimicry in whales. A whale named Noc began to spontaneously make sounds and they were recorded to compare to human speech. Noc had contact with humans, and one day Ridgway noticed the vocal outbursts of Noc. After recording his voice and comparing it to human speech sounds, he found that the humanlike sounds resulted from the pulse rate of his nasal. I listened to the recording and once again I did not hear any similarities. Listen here.
A similarity between all these studies that the animals are mimicking human sounds. So they aren’t really learning and applying the language. They are, however, vocal learners.There are five animals that can produce new sounds, bats, elephants, seals, dolphins and whales. Although these animals are communicating, they’re not really communicating with us, more or less at us.