I rather wanted to place the question here than looking up myself for maybe not reliable answers. That's great. Some pages helped me even my own"längst vergessene deutsche Grammatik" wieder zu beleben. Thank you very much.
Herman, L.M., R.K. Uyeyama (1999). The dolphin's grammatical competency: Comments on Kako. Animal Learning & Behavior. Vol. 27:1, p. 18-23
Kako (1999) reviews the evidence for syntactic competencies in several animal species exposed to artificial language systems, emphasizing the importance of core syntactic properties such as argument structure and closed-class items. We present evidence from our dolphin studies for the acquisition of the closed-class functionality of demonstratives, prepositions, conjunctions, and locatives. Sensitivity to argument structure is also evidenced by wholly untrained and consistent interpretations of the dolphin to probes of anomalous syntactic structures. These results are generated within our comprehension-based paradigm, which enables us to provide convincing objective evidence for the development and generalization of concepts by the dolphin subject. Demonstrations of animal language competencies may illuminate certain aspects of human linguistic competence by suggesting that the particular modeled subsets can derive from general cognitive mechanisms, rather than language-specific ones.
I would suggest that the Herman and Uyeyama (1999) report on Kako (1999) is unconvincing. It is widely recognized in linguistics that comprehension precedes production in language acquisition, but we also recognize that comprehension is a multifaceted construct and that it is difficult to assess comprehension in young children at the level of discourse. The most common approach is narrative retelling, which allows for checking comprehension accuracy.
This approach obviously cannot be applied with dolphins, but it is nevertheless telling. Kako assessed dolphin comprehension on the basis of a dolphin's response to commands that were ill-structured. Herman and Uyeyama (1999) stated, for example, that:
"Kako (1999) discusses the responses of Ake to anomalous relational strings consisting of extraneous arguments, such as an extra destination (D) object or an extra transport (T) object.2 Ake’s responses to these anomalies offer some of the strongest support for her grammatical knowledge. Consider, for example, the anomalous string DT1 T2 R, consisting of a destination object, two transport objects, and a relational verb (FETCH or IN /ON ). An example is PHOENIX HOOP FRISBEE FETCH. The overall string is anomalous in that there is no grammatical form in Ake’s taught language that has three object names" (p. 19).
This comment begs the question of whether the dolphin actually learned a "language," or whether she was merely taught a series of hand gestures related to rewarded behaviors. To then argue that the dolphin acquired a "grammar" on the basis of its ability to correctly complete a designated task even when the gestures contained an anomaly strikes me as a huge interpretative leap.
We know that dolphins are intelligent creatures, but intelligence is not the central issue in language comprehension and production. The facility with which some researchers want to claim success in finding linguistic ability in nonhuman species is truly remarkable.
Thank you very much.Pablo.When I look at the current issues in the world,I observe; the fact that we might use a more complex grammar does not help to communicate properly. Animal world seem to be teaching us a whole lot more over time.
The field of animal cognition is strongly rooted in the philosophy of mind and in the theory of evolution. Despite these strong roots, work during the most famous and active period in the history of our science-the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s-may have diverted us from the very questions that were of greatest initial interest to the comparative analysis...
Orangutans select different tactics for repairing failed communication, depending upon how well they are understood: they repeat signals if they are partially understood and switch tactics entirely if completely misunderstood.