While other animals communicate to each other, this is generally done through instinctual sounds being made in response to some threat or stimulus. Then perhaps other animals respond to that sound, instinctually. There´s obviously no chatting involved.
But I was thinking about that awesome movie from my childhood, Project X (starring a very young Helen Hunt and an even younger Matthew Broderick), and about all those chimps that supposedly learned sign language. What about them??
Well, I read this article on NPR about how humans are linguistically different from monkeys, and it says, first of all, monkeys´ vocal chords are shaped differently from those of humans, so they´ll never really be able to make the sounds we do--obviously--which is why scientists went on and gave sign language a go. To summarize about the sign language obsession researchers had in the 60s and 70s, monkeys are smart enough to make certain shapes with their hands in response to certain stimuli (like twisting a fist by the corner of the mouth when shown an apple), but still, the number of words they learn seems to peak at about 300.
But by the end of high school, we have about 60,000 words, the average human. And every chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, they all sort of hit the wall at two to 300 words, which is also where a dog hits the wall, or a parrot. So there's something really different about us. And it's not to say they don't communicate - of course they communicate. And of course they have communication that can say very specific, surprising things, but it's not language. [...] And what became clear to the researchers doing this was that the human infant had a language, a vocabulary explosion at a very young age that never occurs with chimps.
So Nitzkin was right in saying no monkey has ever spoken better than a 2 year old child.
I read on dolphin-world.com (that´s right) that dolphins have a greater brain-to-body-weight ratio than any other mammal besides homo sapiens and that because dolphins tend to stay within their own pods, they have trouble understanding “foreign” dolphins. This might be an indicator that they have different dolphin "languages" in different parts of the world, even though they are the same species--if in fact they use language at all.
Well, anyway, it´s probably for the best animals don´t seem to really use language the way we do. LEST THIS HAPPEN:
*Ok, I found this wobsite, and I can´t decide if it´s for real or not. It´s called SpeakDolphin.com, and well... they have a running list for if they ever do get to talk to dolphins, what are the questions they would ask. Look. You can submit yours here.