Dialects in Animals: Evidence, Development and Potential Functions


Dialects are one of the parallels that have long been established between human language and animal communication. We discuss the potential functional parallels between human and animal dialects, arguing that in both cases different mechanisms and functions may be at stake where large geographical versus very localized (e.g. social) variations are concerned. Birdsong studies in particular, but also recent studies of mammal vocalizations, show that the use of the term “dialect” to refer to within-species vocal variations in animal species is more than a metaphor and that animal dialects offer a possibility to explore the causes and functions of linguistic variation and change, one of the challenges in exploring the origin of diversity of language families. We present here an original view, as our approach was not “primate-centered,” and take into consideration “homoplasy” (analogy) as a potential mechanism to explain that different taxa have evolved the same functional response to social constraints

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oaioai:doaj.org/article:a28445d87c8946038979638f9f6b9080Last time updated on 10/13/2017

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