What’s it like to be a dog?

It’s difficult to say, because they can’t tell us. But recent experiments have shown something about the way dogs group objects into categories, and it’s different from the way human children do it. How does language change the game for humans?

Linguist Daniel Midgley is in the doghouse for this episode of Talk the Talk.


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I love this story because it’s right at the convergence of two things I love: child language acquisition, and animal cognition. We know something about how people categorise objects into words, but what about a dog?

Well, it’s been done. And dogs don’t have the same biases that we do.

Can we do this with other animals? Like bats? How would they classify objects? Could they? Gosh, there’s so much here.


Show notes

Kiki and bouba
http://io9.com/5691770/the-bouba+kiki-effect

Wittgenstein’s notion of ‘game’ and family resemblance
http://155.97.32.9/~phanna/classes/ling5981/autumn03/web/webnotes/29sept/node3.html

A good rundown on the ‘dax’ experiment
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/thoughtful-animal/2012/11/21/for-word-learning-size-matters-if-youre-a-dog/

The actual article:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0049382


Show tunes

‘The Underdog’ by Spoon
from the album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

‘Dead Dogs Two’ (Remixed by Boards of Canada) by cLOUDDEAD
from the album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga