Date: Tue, 25 Nov 1997 14:12:23 +0100
To: Evolution of Language <>
Subject: Re: EvolLang: Language Evolution Model

> From: M.O.
> >Waruno Mahdi writes:
> >
> > Animal signalization is mainly concerned with regulating social
> > relationships, and why should human language be any different?
> > Every utterance in human language firstly establishes a social
> > relationship. Whether or not it also conveys some information
> > (other than that social signal) is optional.
> I would put this the other way around. Animal signaling is used for
> individuals to communicate with one another. Such communication has
> many purposes. It may facilitate mating. It may help parents feed their
> young. It may allow animals to warn each other of predators. I think it
> is misleading to say that animal communication is mainly concerned with
> regulating social relationships.
Perhaps I should have been more differentiating, but before I go on, I think saying that language (in the wider, not strictly human, sense) is a means of communication is pretty close to a tautology. So what I said could be paraphrased as "animal means of communication are mainly concerned with regulating social relationships....". I notice at the same time with relief, that I hadn't forgotten the word "mainly":-)

There are some basic signals which indeed do not serve to regulate social relationships, such as the warning signal(s) for danger. In birds with dialect formation, some signals are genetically inherited, others are learned, and dialects only diverge in the latter part of the vocabulary. Warning signals typically belong to the genetically inherited ones. In general, the impression I have is that as one moves from "lower" to "higher" animals, and particularly to the primates, the number of "social regulating" signals increases markedly against the background of a more or less constant number of few "non-social regulating".

To avoid misunderstandings about what I mean: in "socially regulating" signals I include all those involved in soliciting, mating, imposing, chasing away or challenging rivals, gathering, "togetherness" signals, etc., also signals calling upon another to do something, or announcing what social position one claims for oneself or that one is about to do something, and particularly such which identify either oneself or another as either belonging or not belonging in a certain group of conspecifics.