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May 25, 2006

Language: not a reason for species discrimination

American scientists have added more evidence to the idea that humans are not the only animals that have features related to linguistic command. Psychologist Timothy Gentner, from the University of California, has published a study in Nature in which he claims the ability of European starlings to understand the difference between simple bird songs and other songs which included phrases within them (a form of grammar called “recursion&rdquo. It is also very likely that this is not unique for starlings and humans; animals from other species also seem have this or other linguistic abilities (as is also the case of great apes).


The claim that humans have abilities that permit the development of language, while other animals lack any of them, is sometimes referred to with the intention of giving justification for speciesism. But once it has been shown that other animals also possess certain features which are among those that are the basis of linguistic abilities, this argument is challenged. However, all this misses the more important point at stake here, the fact of knowing a language does not make one any more sentient or determined to get one’s interests fulfilled (as in the case of the criteria mentioned in the previous article). Starlings have the same interest in not suffering and staying alive, regardless of their command of grammar. Therefore, it seems that we should respect those interests equally.

Please bear in mind that our commenting on this issue in no way implies that we are in favour of carrying out experiments of this kind in as much as that means any sort of deprivation or harm to these animals.

http://www.rightsforanimals.org/

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Posted: May 25, 2006 6:10am

 

 
 
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