Monkey Say, Monkey Do?
Birds singing, dogs barking, and humans talking are all forms of communication in the own right. Everyone recognizes human communication as having a distinct language in both spoken and written forms, but there arises a controversy when determining if animal communication can also be classified as their own language. An interesting case is made for animal language when studying the vervet monkeys. These monkeys have alarm calls to alert the other monkeys when a predator is approaching. At first it was believed that the variety of the vocal call arose from the severity of fear the monkey exhibited. However, after further observation occurred, the realization was made that there were three distinctive calls that elicited three distinct actions by the other monkeys. The monkey would give one call when it saw a snake which prompted the other monkeys to stand on their hind legs to scan the ground. The next call sent the monkeys into the safety of the upper branches of trees when a leopard was spotted. Finally, if an eagle was seen by a monkey it would cling to the base of the tree out of sight. Each hiding spot was specific to the predator spotted. A common dialect and understanding is clearly present among these monkeys, so maybe the term "language" would be appropriate. I don't think grammar rules and symbols to express specific words are necessary for a language to exist.
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