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October 2021

The dolphin's grammatical competency: Comments on Kako (1999)

Author(s): Uyeyama, R. K.

Journal/Book: Anim Learn Behav. 1999; 27: 1710 Fortview Rd, Austin, TX 78704, USA. Psychonomic Soc Inc. 18-23.

Abstract: 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.

Note: Editorial Herman LM, Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Lab, 1129 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu,HI 96814 USA


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