Human Children, Even More So Than Dolphins, Names
Signature shape conveys identity information to human children
by Peter Ur de Males
l’École de SpecGram, Santiago
Many people have been excited, and rightly so, by the recent announcement that bottlenose dolphins show of names, and even using them in the first, second, and third person. [Janik 2006]
We at SpecGram are more excited than most this research, being longtime proponents of oceanic linguistic research, especially as it applies to cetaceans and other marine mammals. [Ismeretlen 1989, Scott 1990, Phocaena 1991, Onesimus 2005] Thus, it seemed appropriate to commission an investigation into the sodology and results of Janik, et al. It also seemed like an easy way to pad the old resume, so what the heck!
It has long been known that dolphins use their signature whistles to identify themselves and each other. But recent research using electronically reproduced signatures has shown that dolphins these distinctive whistles even when voice cues of individual dolphins are removed from the sound.
In nine out of fourteen instances, the bottlenose dolphins researched would turn more often toward the sound of an artificial whistle similar to a close relative’s.
Human children are similarly believed to use distinctive to identify one another. However, unlike dolphins, human children seem to be less likely to use their own names, and more likely to use the names of their close relatives, particularly siblings and parents.
Human child /bɪli/: suzi tami stapɪt mam
Human child /suzi/: no ju stapɪt bɪli stapɪt tami maam
Human child /tami/: no suzi no bɪli stapɪt stapɪt stapɪt stapɪt1 mam ma::m ma:::a:::m
An early proposal for testing human children suggested experimenting with children in the wild, perhaps in a playground setting. [Mead 2006] However, logistical, financial, legal, and personal considerations2
led to the decision to experiment on moderately domesticated children in an artificial enclosure.3
A was used to artificial pronunciations of the names of children and close relatives (including siblings and parents). Recognition of names was indicated by turning toward the , glancing at the , and increased .4
Being linguists, we are naturally able to more readily from less data than scientists in other fields. Because of this advantage,5
only two experimental subjects6
were used. Both showed recognition-indicating . Two out of two (a robust and definitive 100%) is vastly better than nine out of fourteen (a paltry though statistically significant 64.3%).
There are some other interesting features of the test results. Female subjects were more likely to turn toward or glance at the than male subjects. Whether this is indicative of a or a in activity type during the experiment (activities we have tentatively labeled “table-sitting” vs. “-using”) is an open question which will require further research8
Janik, V.M.; Sayigh, L. S.; Wells, R. S. 2006. Signature whistle shape conveys identity information to bottlenose dolphins. P Natl Acad Sci USA.
Mead, D. 2006. Personal communication.
The use of the /stapɪt/
in human children is very interesting, and seems to be some sort of attention-getting signal.
It is hard to loading children and equipment into the , outdoor microphones are expensive, one doesn’t want to get arrested for being a pervert because of paying too much attention to children on the playground, and one is lazy.
Referred to colloquially as “the ”.
The most common indicating recognition and interest included /waɪdɪdɪtseɪmaɪneɪm/
, though many others were recorded.
And because one can only afford to have two children in these expensive times in which we live.
The subjects were both human children between six and seven7
years of age.
The Speculative Grammarian
Human Subjects Research Committee is still deliberating on a request to test human children immersed in water. Similarly the Speculative Grammarian
Cetacean Subjects Research Committee is deliberating on a parallel request to test dolphins removed from water. The goal of these requests is to undertake further research to account for variations in these results which are attributable to aquatic/non-aquatic environmental .