Singing For Survival: Gibbons Scare Off Predators With ‘Song’

998 words - 4 pages



This article discusses the form of communication that Gibbon monkeys use amongst their species. The argument that appears to be present throughout this article is that Gibbons are not only able to communicate with each other, but also that their communication system shares certain features with the human language system. Although I agree that this species’ communication system shares particular design features with the human language, the definition of language attests that this type of communication is not considered a language.
The first of the five core design features discussed throughout this paper is semanticity. Semanticity is defined as specific sound signals that are ...view middle of the document...

49-57). Humans are able to produce an infinite number of diverse messages by combining the elements of language in different ways. This does not exist among Gibbons because although they are able to use combinations of calls in different contexts to relay new information, these said calls are of a finite set of repetitive and familiar calls ("Singing for Survival," 2006). However, I would argue the part of this design feature that deems this species’ communication as a definite, closed system. For instance, researchers describe Gibbon songs as including varying pitches that they use to combine up to seven notes to create more complex structures or phrases ("Singing for Survival," 2006). In the human language system, the meaning of symbols and/or signals vary depending on certain contexts and situations. It appears that Gibbons have some capability to change their songs based on different situations they are engaging in such mating, warnings, etc. Therefore, I’ve concluded that these abilities demonstrate a certain amount of productivity. However, this species does not the competency to use an unlimited amount of utterances, which would essentially eliminate them from fully having this design feature in their communication system.
Displacement is a design feature of language that we as humans are able to use to reference the past, future, and the hypothetical. It refers to the human language system’s ability to communicate about things that are not present spatially, temporally, and/or realistically. According to “Language Matters”, displacement is defined as the ability to talk about events remote in time and place (Bauer, 2006, pp. 49-57). Although it is often said that this particular design feature is unique to human language, Gibbon monkeys seems to also share the ability of displacement. In the article it states, the Gibbons appear to use their songs not just to warn their own group members of predators but also those that are in neighboring areas. It also appears that Gibbons use loud ‘long-distance’ calls to warn relatives in other areas and those relatives respond by joining in the singing and matching the correct predator song ("Singing...

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