Sometimes we feel so lucky on being blessed with the ability to speak. We always thank the person who created the dictionary full of words, making it so liable for us to communicate. ‘Need water’ when thirsty, ‘feeling sick’ and ‘take me to the doctor’ when ill, ‘hungry’ for food and ‘do not disturb’ when moody- it’s so simplified and comes with less trouble. Hence we can estimate how difficult it is for the animals to communicate their needs and wants to us.
Animal language however shows similarity to human language. It may be complex enough to be called a form of language- if the inventory of signs is large, the signs are relatively arbitary and the animals produce them with a degree of volition. Animal languages are less complex as well as less expressive than those of the humans. However experts assert that an evolutionary continuum exists between the communication method of animals and human language. It can be evidenced through the use of Lexigrams (as used by chimpanzees and bonobos) in addition to signs.
Animals have their unique way of talking. Ever imagined how a lion says to the other, “Come on, lets go hunting”! It does sound like they are saying the same. Their language is not like what is expected from the definition. They do not convey words but more feelings instead. Some curve their bodies away from the others, giving off the feeling I’m small, I’m not worth your time. Its not a direct translation. If we know how to interpret their signals, we can always understand their language. If two dolphins are communicating with each other in a pool, we think they are saying- ‘Hey what’s up?”. Yes, may be. It is their method of greeting or conveying feelings, happiness, love and sadness. One cannot imply that animal language is stupid, its just very different from ours.
Orcas have specific spoken language that Orcas from other regions of the ocean cannot understand. But its not as complex as the human speech. Lot of monkey species has different yells for different predators. And when we talk of monkeys, they are no less than us. They talk, sit, walk and behave just very similar to us. Only their language is unique.
Thinking that language is something that only humans have is yet another case of people not being able to accept that they themselves are animals. And never should we babble so much about the greatness of our language and speech system since the word ‘animal’ is such an abuse to them.
Pet animals have their own languages and signs which they understand and react to. Animals certainly understand human language, but they realize the connection between sound and a movement. They don’t know the word sit but recognize the sound associated with the word sit and follow that technically. They also follow your actions like if you start running unnecessarily, your dog will instantly run behind you. Every animal has their specific way, a bird’s chirp, cat’s meow and a dog bark. Bees are interesting because inside their hives they have a specific dance which looks like an elongated figure 8 and depending on how many times they circle, the other bees become aware how far the food is. Lost whales communicate through sounds. Lions, dogs leave their smell as a mark to alert other invaders that it is their territory, cobras rises high to warn its opponent from messing with it, insects have weird kinds of sound exactly suitable for communication in the insect kingdom.
Among your pet, wagging of the tail, scenting and licking are common indications of your pet wanting to spend time with you. They wonderfully understand human language but they simply cannot speak. Only parrots mimic human sounds to a great extent. As an owner, it is very important that we understand their language. Often we try to humanize our pet animals and expect them to understand our commands. But they are just animals. They need time because they have different needs, their psychology is quite different. If a dog wants a walk it will grab your shirt and try taking you outside. If he chews your carpet even after teaching it not to do so, maybe he is trying to tell us something, maybe he wants attention or want to spend time with is. Usually when dogs are aggressive, they are sad and depressed. Cats mew to show happiness and contentment. They purr when hungry, rub against when tired and sleepy, telling you that your lap is the ideal place for its sleep. They also purr when injured or sick.
Cats often use their body language to communicate to us. When her tail is straightened upwards she is showing affection or at times is overexcited. When her tail is erected with a curve like a question mark, she is playful. When the tail is lowered, she is frightened and signals the danger of an attacker. Successful relation with pet birds depends on our understanding of their body language. They communicate sound, behaviour and actions. Flashing, dilating pupils are signs of aggression, excitement or even nervousness. Tail fanning can warn you “to back off”. Birds chatter loud when in excitement and when they feel dominant over others. Rapid clicking of the tongue against the beak generally means that they want to be friendly. Beak clicking is done when birds feel threatened or is protecting itself from some object.
Chimpanzees are excellent pets. They have unique body languages, facial expressions to admire. They make their intentions clear without words. They use 30 different kinds of vocalizations like ‘wraa’ when in danger, ‘huhu’ in puzzlement. Chimpanzees will hold hands, kiss, pat each others back and groom with friendly touches. They show gestures which communicate messages and express emotions without any verbal sounds. They will hunch their shoulders, push their head down and look up the other individual if they feel that they are below their status. Humans and chimps are very alike when it comes to communication.