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When Animals SpeakToward an Interspecies Democracy$
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Eva Meijer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479859351

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479859351.001.0001

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Animal Languages

Animal Languages

(p.36) 2 Animal Languages
When Animals Speak

Eva Meijer

NYU Press

Chapter 2 turns the focus to non-human animal languages. The author draws on empirical studies of non-human animal languages and cultures, in order to provide a better insight into their worlds as a starting point for conceptualizing interspecies interactions and world-building. The chapter begins by discussing language research in which humans investigate the linguistic capacities of other animals through teaching them to use human language. It then discusses problems with this approach, for non-human animals and language, and examines how Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later work, and specifically his concept “language games,” can function as an alternative way of studying non-human animal languages and interspecies languages. The second half of the chapter, in which the author uses ethological studies and philosophical insights to provide a phenomenological view of language, is devoted to exploring how different functions of language can be characterized in a multispecies context. The author discusses the language games of mimicry, alarm calls, grammar, identity, and performativity, as well as meta-communication. The final section argues that we need to move from thinking about to thinking with other animals, and that we therefore need to explore the relation between language and world in an interspecies context.

Keywords:   animal languages, language games, Wittgenstein, animal language research, animal agency, ethology

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