Communication, Language, and Meaning: Psychological Perspectives

By George A. Miller | Go to book overview

8 PRIMATE COMMUNICATION

Stuart A. Altmann

Let us suppose for the moment that we are in a grove of acacia trees on the savannahs of East Africa. In the trees above our heads there is a group of the common African green monkey, sometimes called the vervet. Suddenly, a martial eagle swoops down on the vervets. The first vervet that sees the approaching eagle gives an alarm bark. At the sound of this vocalization all the vervet monkeys suddenly drop from the branches of the trees to the dense undergrowth, where they are safe from the attack of the eagle.

Here is a vocalization given by one member of a social group that is heard and responded to by other members of his group. Such vocalizations are obviously used for communication. But can we call this kind of communication a "language"?

On these same savannahs of East Africa, baboons, which are large, ground-living monkeys, are fairly abundant. At night, these animals sleep either in trees or on cliff faces. The small infant baboon sleeps huddled against its mother.

As the infant becomes older, however, the mother becomes progressively more reluctant to allow the infant to sleep next to her. This rejection by the mother seems to be a traumatic situation for the infant, and in the evening, as a group of baboons approaches their sleeping trees, the repeated cooing and screeching of a rejected infant can be heard. Sometimes the infant's calling is successful and the mother allows the infant to sleep next to her.

As a final example, in the rain forest of Central and South America there is a monkey, called the howler monkey, that pro-

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Communication, Language, and Meaning: Psychological Perspectives
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • The Authors v
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • 1: Psychology and Communication 3
  • 2: Psychology and the Theory of Language 13
  • 3: The Realm of Syntax 23
  • 4: The Realm of Meaning 36
  • 5: Biological Aspects of Language 49
  • 6: The Brain and Language 61
  • 7: Speech Development and Bird Song: Are There Any Parallels? 73
  • 8: Primate Communication 84
  • 9: Teaching Apes to Communicate 95
  • 10: The Development of Language in Children 107
  • 11 - Learning to Read 117
  • 12: The Speech Code 128
  • 13: Artificial Speech 141
  • 14: Language and Perception 149
  • 15: Language and Memory 159
  • 16: Language and Thought 172
  • 17: Language and Probability 185
  • 18: Communication and Computers 196
  • 19: Communication in Small Groups 208
  • 20: Mass Communication 219
  • 21: Nonverbal Communication 231
  • 22: Persuasion 242
  • 23: Language and Psychopathology 256
  • 24: The Sociology of Language 268
  • 25: Translation and Bilingualism 280
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 291
  • Index 299
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