If animals could talk

Ive read that a dog has the mind of a 8 year kid and Im not sure about cats. How do you think they would talk if they could. Do you think they would talk like a little toddler using a few words or do you think they would be able to speak in sentences? Also do you think they could hold a job if they could talk. They could probably only do physical labor type jobs I bet.

Only if the dog killed and ripped the head off a child. Where did you read this?

Gorillas have been taught to write essays analyzing the works of Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, and political philosophers like Locke, Voltaire, etc.

Dolphins are easily able to learn algebra and trigonometry, and the sharper ones have mastered basic Calculus and Aristotelian Logic.

Polynesia the Parrot was a skilled interpreter and translator of numerous languages. It was Polynesia, for example, who pointed out that dogs usually use their noses to ask questions. Alex the African Grey Parrot was adept at languages too. (For real. You can google that.)

There are numerous theories that language directs thought, so you might say that whatever language they learn would, in itself, channel what they have to say.

Why not go the other way? Suppose they already do have their own languages, and we’re the ones who need to learn how to listen?

Anyway, dogs, at least, are enough like people, they’d probably say a lot of people things. “Turn the TV down, a bit, please, it’s plenty loud for me. Are you gonna eat all that? We haven’t been for a drive in a while. Jeez, it’s hot today. There’s a bitch in heat down the road; let’s go for a walk that way. Who the hell is Jodi Arias?”

Some dogs already have jobs (guide dogs, police dogs.)

Dogs and cats do not have the mind of an eight year old child. Even Koko, an adult gorilla who has spent her life immersed in learning to communicate with humans, does not have the language skills of an eight year old child. Koko, who has been using language for forty years, has approximately the language skills of a two year old human.

The bottom line is language use doesn’t just happen. Humans have evolved specific areas of their brain for language use. Other species don’t have this. And without these areas of the brain, you’re never going to teach any animal to really learn a language. Even a human who was missing the language areas of his brain wouldn’t be able to learn language.

Little Nemo kind of beat me to it but I thought dogs and cats were more often compared to two-year-olds. I don’t know the specifics for why that comparison gets made or how well-supported it is.

Sheep are damned, dirty liars!

Dogs would speak with Brooklyn accents and cats would all sound like Zsa Zsa Gábor.

I’m not sure providing animals with the ability to talk would provide much benefit to either party (humans or animals) without a consequent boost in their intelligence. There’s a small but amusing scene in the book ‘Dancing With Bears’ by Michael Swanwick where one character (himself an ‘uplifted’ humanoid dog) muses that it wasn’t the best idea to provide cows with basic language as he watches them call, “FFFFOOOOODDDD!!!” to the local farmers. :smiley:

Anyway for the more domesticated animals we get on just fine without a two-way vocal conversation, its pretty easy for a dog to understand what a person wants and vice versa without a mutual complex vocal language.

I was mulling over an incident from my childhood the other day which in retrospect shows a fairly high-level of intelligence from a domestic cat. I grew up on a farm and at one point a feral cat moved in to one of the barns. It really didn’t like people as myself and the other children quickly learned but it did a good job of keeping the rat population down so it was left alone.

A couple of years after it first arrived (and as far as I’m aware with no subsequent socialisation by humans) when I was in the kitchen with my mum the cat appeared on the kitchen window and started walking up and down and looking in at us in an obviously distressed state. We went out to see what was wrong and saw that somehow a bone had got wedged in its jaw and it couldn’t eat properly, while I held it down my mum removed the bone. It shook its head, tested its jaw movements a few times and then ran off.

After that it would tolerate attention from myself and my mum but no-one else. Looking back that seems to be fairly high-order of thought processes for a cat, “I really don’t like these guys but they might be able to help.”

I thought it was interesting anyway.

Even the males? :smiley:

Androcles! And, yeah, that is a cool story. The cat somehow figured out how to ask for help.

And when Arthur Dent learns bird language in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, he quickly becomes annoyed with the endless chatter about wind resistance and other boring stuff.

As a part of my job,I care for about 50 small crow sized parrots, they of course mimic language, (and our dogs barking) but use it with any understanding, as far as I can tell. Most all the parrots dont use language, except perhaps the trained birds like Alex the African gray, who seems to speak and comprehend like a 2 to 4 year old human. She seemed to understand some degree of symbolic logic as well.

With my critters, if they COULD use language, it would probably be a lot of cursing and swearing at each other and myself…MORE PEANUTS!!! BITE HIM!!!:eek::eek:

They are actually nice, and do make gentle sounds when they are content.

I do think we underestimate the capacity of animals to “understand”…or perhaps dont appreciate that “understanding”.

That’s something that comes up several times in Mercedes Lackey’s fairy-tale-based Five Hundred Kingdoms series. Talking to the occasional smart magical animal is useful - but most animals are just really, really irritating. Constantly crying out “I’m here! I’m here!”, “Mine! Mine!”, etc.

There’s probably some instinct involved due to selective breeding involved. Even feral domestic cats are the result of millennia of selective breeding & evolution; the fact that they are willing to move in among humans and are far less shy towards us than their wild relatives for example. It likely has ancestors that had problems and had the same go-to-a-human impulse, who survived and bred because of it. After all, look at it - any offspring it has are going to inherit any instinctive tendency to go to humans for help that it has, because it worked.

The number of elements that the speaker can connect together is usually a marker.

  1. Babbling - around six months - making noises to communicate: ma-ma, ba-ba, etc.

  2. Single words - around twelve months - forming words to express a singular concept: up, down, water, ball

  3. Word pairs - around eighteen months - putting two words together to express a new concept: where kitty?, big truck, want down

  4. Forming simple sentences - around twenty-four months - able to join words together to express a single idea: I love mommy, I want more candy, that’s my doll

  5. Forming complex sentences - around thirty months - able to express more than one idea in a sentence: I want to go out and play ball, I like grandma because she gives me cookies

Koko communicates at about level 3. She can combine a couple of signs together to do something like call a swan a “water bird” or a ring a “finger bracelet”. But this appears to be her limit.

Koko also has a vocabulary of maybe two thousand words she understands and she only uses about a thousand herself. An average five year old child entering school has a vocabulary of about ten thousand words and will learn about three thousand new words each year.

Thanks dopers for making me literally laugh out loud. This thread is a scream.

Cats are all female. Dogs are all male. Don’t ask.

Well, we decoded some “dog” vocabulary, Prairie dogs to be more precise, as reported by QI:


What is surprising is that with other animals it has not been possible to get such decoding, I do think that it has to do with speech or vocalizations not being the only way of communication among other critters. Perhaps when tools that integrate the recording of sounds, body language, motion, smells, infra-sounds and other behavior is invented.

This is a great thread.

It prompted deep discussion with my dog, who was much more candid after a few Mint Juleps. She insists that the art of conversation has been lost in general, and is not merely confined to the animal world where they talk about us, rather than to us.

Hence the wide-eyed look when we enter the room and the curiously misplaced handset.