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Language Learning in Cetaceans

Although the title of this entry is “Language Learning in Cetaceans,” it is important to note that there is no compelling evidence that any cetaceans possess humanlike language, and so the term language in the title refers to the communication systems that cetaceans employ without implying any close correspondence to human language. Although Lou Herman and his colleagues have demonstrated that dolphins can be trained to comprehend rudimentary “word” order, there is no evidence that dolphins employ even the simplest syntax in their natural communication systems. Similarly, captive dolphins can learn to apprehend the referential nature of certain symbols (those that refer to objects and behaviors), but the referential nature of naturally occurring dolphin signals is unknown. Nonetheless, cetaceans engage in sufficiently interesting communicative behavior ...

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