Dolphins are known for their squeaky calls, but now it appears that these clever mammals of the sea can call each other by name.

What is their communication system like, and how does this compare with human language?

Linguist Daniel Midgley explores undersea linguistics on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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There are two things I really don’t like. One is new age woo, and the other is lazy claims about language being used by animals. This episode has them both! But I managed to keep my calm, dispassionate nature intact. With science!

Here’s the video of the minions. It makes sense if you listen.


Show notes

There’s a little bit of Tagalog in them thar Minions.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nyc4O3RqpA

Looks like Tagalog to me.
http://translate.google.com/?source=osdd#tl/en/nalito%20na

A little more
http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/2013/07/01/960379/minions-can-speak-filipino

The director and voice artist explains.
http://entertainment.inquirer.net/101383/multilingual-minions-take-over-in-despicable-me-2

Benny Lava
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prabhu_Deva

Dolphins appear to use a unique whistle as a name.
NPR: http://www.npr.org/2013/07/22/204462853/we-call-him-flipper-but-what-do-the-dolphins-call-him
NPR2: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/02/20/172538036/researchers-find-that-dolphins-call-each-other-by-name
LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-dolphins-name-signature-whistles-20130722,0,1462053.story
Smithsonian: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2013/07/do-dolphins-use-whistles-to-call-themselves-by-unique-names/

The full article
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/07/17/1304459110.abstract

Hear some whistles
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/02/dolphin-names/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Findex+%28Wired%3A+Top+Stories%29

There’s some real dolphin woo out there. Here’s a rank example. Don’t swallow it.
http://www.globalanimal.org/2011/09/11/dolphins-dont-just-squeak-they-speak/50761/

This is a laundry list of all the terrible pseudo-science related to the animal language topic.
http://www.livescience.com/22474-animal-languages-communication.html

Chomsky isn’t too keen on it either
http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/2007—-.htm
http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/chomsky.htm

“Dolphin-Assisted Therapy” is pseudo-science
http://www.aeonmagazine.com/nature-and-cosmos/lori-marino-dolphins-are-not-healers/

Dolphins have big brains
http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/dolphin-brains-compare-human-brains

They pass the mirror test
http://earthtrust.org/delbook.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_cognition#Language

and maybe learn things culturally
http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v3/n7/full/ncomms1983.html

Although you could make the same claim about whales
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130425-humpback-whale-culture-behavior-science-animals/

So are they using a language?
http://www.dolphincommunicationproject.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1103&Itemid=285

Probably not, but referring to things is still cool.


Show tunes

‘Girl and the Sea’ by the Presets
from the album Beams

‘Undersea Community’ by the Avalanches
from the album At Last Alone