Edward S. Klima and Ursula Bellugi
Over the past few years, many interesting facts have come to light about the ways animals communicate in their natural state. Certain of these facts suggest properties usually associated only with human language. The bees have a dance whose choreography communicates to the other members of the colony the direction, distance, and richness of the pollen source discovered minutes earlier. Thus in no sense is the bee's message an immediate reaction to its environment of the moment, but more a relating of certain aspects of a past experience. Certain birds, like the white-crowned sparrow, have an elaborate song whose mature shape is determined by the particular dialect it is exposed to at a critical period in its infancy. Thus there are significant aspects of the sparrow song that do not simply go along with being a sparrow, but rather are dependent on early experience. The apes in the wild display an elaborate system of communication combining gestures, facial expressions, and sounds into a composite signal in which the significance of one type of signal-a particular gesture, for example-is dependent on what particular facial expressions and sounds accompany it. The full significance of a signal may, in addition, be determined by the relative social positions of the participants in the communication act. Thus certain aspects, at least, of the system of animal communication do not have a simple one-to-one relationship between unit signal and significance, but depend, rather, on selected aspects of the accompanying signals as well as of the social context.
While too little is known in detail about the system of animal