Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Animal communication conference

The Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States (LACUS) is an old linguistics conference — going back to 1974, and founded as:
a forum for the free flow of ideas and discussion on human communicating behavior from all possible points of view, going beyond traditional grammatical studies in the various traditional modes.
As that suggests, they stretch the bounds of your typical neighborhood linguistics conference, but it's mostly people of traditional structuralist orientation and they've had lots of famous people at the core: past presidents include Bolinger, Hockett, Pulgram, and more.

A regular reader of this blog (can we get a shorthand here — arrotb, maybe, just to remind us of how weird violations of the Sonority Sequencing Generalization are?) alerted me to the program announcement for this year's conference, here. The paragraph that got his attention may have been this:
The conference theme “Speech and Beyond” invites scholars to consider all possible modes of communication and the question of whether language is a uniquely human activity or not. Speakers include Louis Herman, president of the Dolphin Institute; Irene Pepperberg, well-known for her work with the African grey parrot Alex; and Neda De Mayo, founder and president of the California wild horse sanctuary, Return to Freedom, who’ll talk about communication with horses.
You may be thinking, whoa, this is pretty far off the beaten track. The implied leap from 'communication' to 'language' gets your breath, maybe especially when we're talking horses. But as long as everybody has understood stuff like Doctor Dolittle's Delusion (whether they agree entirely with that particular work or not), I'm cool with work on animal communication.

Hat tip to Mr. Rasmussen. Image from here. (I can't actually check out the site right now because it's not accessible from Linux, or even Mac.)

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