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Inspired by this question: Talking animals in a parallel universe


I wonder, would it be possible, if there were more species which created their own abstract means of communication, would they be able to understand each other?

Let's narrow the question to the biological species, which evolved on the same planet and had multiple chances to live side by side - which means no aliens stuff.

By abstract I mean something more than just "get lost" signals. Let's say it'd be a communication comparable to something slightly more advanced than a few minutes long chit-chat with a stranger about things like weather or recent space programs (no real science or tech-y stuff, more pop-science) or means of transport.

Edit: It strictly has to be different species.

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From your comments on the other answer, you are specifically curious about communication between groups with substantially different DNA (for whatever version of substantial is meaningful for DNA. Remember, we share 99% of our DNA with chimps, and we're closer to earthworms than many of us like to admit). Given this position, you might be interested in Noam Chomsky's crusade to identify a "Universal Grammar" for humanity. He theorized that, because every single human group has developed language, it is very likely that the roots of language and its associated grammar can be found in the DNA of H. sapiens. He spent a great deal of time trying to determine what that root might be. (He thought it might be the idea of recurison, but studies into the Pirahã language have raised doubts since then).

It is actually an open question to this day whether the universal roots of the grammar is written into our DNA, or whether it is an emergent behavior whose roots are not easily tied to a specific genetic sequence. If it is the former, then that would suggest that no two species could communicate unless they shared the same genes responsible for the Universal Grammar of their species. If it is the latter, then genetics has little to do with the question. In that case, discussions regarding humans through trade languages or international interactions a. la. Henry Taylor's answer become very valid arguments for why your species could communicate abstractly.

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What you are talking about is a trade-language, a language which evolves among travelling merchants of other different nations to facilitate international trade. Trading-languages evolved repeatedly throughout history between humans of different nations and tribes. If your talking animals need to interact, it is very likely that a method of communication will evolve.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good connection! $\endgroup$ – Quiquȅ Nov 22 '15 at 2:00
  • $\begingroup$ That is however the same species. What I am talking about is a communication between an intelligent form of cat, for instance, and an intelligent form of primate, or a bird. Simply, the case where DNA is so different that the species are not that good at doing the same sounds or facial (or other) expression than the other. $\endgroup$ – ban_lonely_days Nov 22 '15 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ I believe that DNA and resulting body shape would have less of a negative affect that the cultural and religious differences that developed between geographically separated nations and tribes in our own history. I'm assuming that your animals have relatively common exposure to each other, which is much more than Columbus had with the Caribbean and Native American peoples. Yet trade (albeit unfair trade) is reported to have occurred. Your creatures would figure it out. Flap right wing is the same as wave right paw and both mean "Yes". $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Nov 22 '15 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ Universal Grammar from Cort Ammons answer was what I was looking for. Thank you for your answer anyway. $\endgroup$ – ban_lonely_days Nov 22 '15 at 17:06

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