English 4 Honors
Language is defined as "a system of conventional spoken, manual, or written symbols by
means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture,
express themselves. The functions of language include communication, the expression of
identity, play, imaginative expression, and emotional release." As of 2009, there have been 6,909
recorded languages. I believe that these attributes alone make humans different from other
animals; we are the most evolved species. Animals have their own means of communication;
however, it is not as expansive as the human language. While some animals can learn certain
words, phrases, and symbols, it can be argued that it is merely a skill to get what they want.
Animals are very diverse creatures. You have mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish,
and invertebrates. They all have different forms of communication. Bees use different types of
dances to find food. Birds use signals and songs to establish territory, sense danger and attract
mates. Bacteria, even though they are actually prokaryotes and not animals, send organic
molecules to each other. So, different species have different ways of communication. But
humans are the only species with a developed language.
Language makes humans different from animals because we can communicate more
effectively, as opposed to grunts, noises, calls and songs, and dances. As humans, we can display
our emotions and get our point across by simply talking. As James R. Hurford stated, " To apply
the term "language" to the communication of honeybees, or of monkeys, or whales, is to miss an
important difference." If you are happy, sad, excited, or angry, you can convey your emotions by
simply stating so. If you are telling someone to do something or you are delivering a message, it
can be done by simply stating so, whether you are speaking English, Spanish, Haitian Creole,
Japanese, or any other language. According to Typical Speech and Language Development, by
the time human children are age 6, they can understand 20,000-24,000 words, and they can use
over 2,300 words. They understand different concepts and relations, and can use complex
sentences. Animals cannot do such things at that age, in fact, they cannot do them at all.
Language is always evolving, and there are always new words being formed to take the place of
older, more antiquated ones. This is exemplified with the addition of new words to the Merriam
Webster's Collegiate Dictionary like "bromance", "man cave", "game changer", and many others.
The flexibility of the human language is truly intriguing.
Some may argue that animals can be taught the human language and they can
communicate with humans. Case in point, we have Alex the Parrot who was reported to have
"used many words for colors, objects, numbers, and shapes to communicate with people". It was
reported that he had the intelligence of a 5 year-old, with a vocabulary of 150 words. However,
according to Typical Speech and Language Development, a 5 year-old should have a 2,000-word
vocabulary. Another example consists of chimpanzees, with Kani being considered the most
famous one. He was able to understand when American psychologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh
was speaking to him and he could communicate through the use of 348 symbols, alongside
understanding 3,000 words. While these occurrences are fascinating, these animals still cannot
speak our language, and if they can, it is not with the same understanding as humans. Parrots are
known to copy words, sentences and sounds like us, but it cannot be proven that they grasp the
same understanding. Chimpanzees are very intelligent animals, but they cannot speak our
language. It can be argued that they understand us to a certain degree, like cats or dogs; in a
sense we communicate with them as we do with our everyday pets. Animals are innate creatures
who act on instinct and adapt accordingly. They are not humans, so while they can be trained to
understand us, they will not be able to actually speak our language.
Human language makes us different from other animals due to its expansiveness. We are
able to communicate more effectively to get our point across. While animals can be taught and
can understand to a certain degree, they will not be able to use "language" as opposed to