In my world that I'm building, {ha ha, see what I did there?} all animals have a small chance of being intelligent and an even smaller chance of being able to speak. {Small chance being how much intelligent gene is in their heritage.}

In this world, there are the classic fantasy races, Elves, Dwarves, Fairies, et cetera et cetera.

It is a primarily Medieval World, with a few exceptions

{Dwarves, Pixies, and Ogres being Steampunk-esque}

The Question is what would the Humans notice, surrounded by all of the magic, and war, how likely would it be to notice such creatures.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbulding. Please narrow down your question to a specific problem and provide more info. As it is now your question is unanswerable. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jun 30 '17 at 5:58
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I apologize for the unspecificity of the question. $\endgroup$ – Myrrdin Emries Jun 30 '17 at 6:17
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    $\begingroup$ Who would have to notice what? I assume humans of some kind. Are those humans as advanced as us and have a couple of people researching animal intelligence? Please be aware that intelligence is somewhat of an ill-defined concept, especially when it comes to other species. Before one can answer this question, you have to define exactly what that intelligence is - if do not understand why, I suggest you first do some research. Example question you should be able to answer: I would argue a rat for example does exactly what a rat is supposed to do, how is more intelligence gonna change it? $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 30 '17 at 8:14
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    $\begingroup$ Too few lines in those comments. You are further asking about animals speaking. Well, that's a completely different question. I'm assuming based on your question that you are building something similar to a Disney movie. Those movies make a lot of money and have a lot of fans, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but one should not take them literally and ask about how a talking tea cup could evolve biologically. If you do however, a lot of cracks appear in the logic which makes it especially hard to answer such a question: Please fix those cracks by including !a lot! more information $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 30 '17 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ To quote Qui Gon Jin... "The ability to speak does not make you intelligent." $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 30 '17 at 13:40

We can't say. A parrot can realistically mimic a can opener, an opera singer, cats and dogs and doorbells, Piano riffs and human speech. Not to mention the calls of other birds!

Parrots don't have big brains, their tongues are not as prehensile as ours; their lips and cheeks are not flexible, they have no teeth to brace a tongue against. We use all those to form sounds like "P", "G", "T", "SSHHH", etc: Parrots accomplish all those with vocal gymnastics in the throat, not the mouth, and we humans cannot tell the difference.

Which means a "standard" vocal tract already shared by most animals is probably enough.

The real changes are in the brain, in two parts. First is the ability to hear a sound and (somehow) translate that into whatever complex series of muscle controls would produce it. We hear a new word, and usually in a single try can produce that word. Not so for other sounds; for us.

But a parrot can hear a doorbell, and it's brain translates that into muscular controls that reproduce it so well it fools humans. (Yes, they have perfect pitch too, so even more neural equipment on the hearing side). That is about inputs; The second area of the brain is obviously that masterful control center of the output side: The vocal tract itself; timing and fine control over the shape of the throat and tongue, air pressures, pitch, tone and volume required to reproduce sounds with such precision and accuracy, and speed of changes.

Exactly what changes are required in the brain are impossible to describe; we truly do not know that much. But you can be certain there are genes to lay down this neural machinery: The proof is in the pudding, Parrots can speak perfect Chinese, Russian, and English. Squirrels suck at Chinese!

Which means, Logan, give the animals a voice box with muscular control, and you are set. The neural machinery can fit in a parrot's cute little head, the necessary nerves and muscles can fit in their little throat.

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    $\begingroup$ Given the premise of the question, what about all those squirrels that have the complex machinery needed to obtain the ability to speak but lack the intelligence to do so? Are all stupid animals now mimicking door bells (and why would people still have door bells?) or is the evolutionary pressure on each species so high that they carry that extra weight around for that 1 in a 1000 instances of their species? I think the question is not what muscles and so on they need (which I think is trivial even though you explained it very well) but how to make sense of all of this. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 30 '17 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ Why wouldn't people have doorbells? They are still installed on new houses. You might be in the back of the house, like your spare theater room (not the main theater, obviously, that's in the front of the house for easier guest access) and not hear a knock on the door. :-) $\endgroup$ – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Jun 30 '17 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ If every animal imitates door bells, one might have to shift the door bell frequency $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 30 '17 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Obviously, every doorbell can be different; and parrots can imitate chimes, bells, knocks, piano playing, trumpet playing, flutes, the squeak of a door hinge, pretty much whatever they hear repeatedly. I have heard of a parrot imitating that CSI dramatic two-beat "bom BOM". $\endgroup$ – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Jun 30 '17 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it would even be an evolutionary advantage if your species had no intelligent instances that are able to speak. At least they would have some peace and quiet once in a while. Imagine some civilization-dwelling mammal imitating the garbage truck every morning - they would go extinct within the year $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 30 '17 at 13:38

Just intelligence? Look for things that are frequently in contact with humans (intelligent giant sea isopods aren't going to be very noticeable, just because the places they live don't overlap with the places humans live at all!), and things that have prehensile appendages (e.g., hands).

Raccoons. Crows. Things like that.

If they can speak, being able to effectively manipulate the world with their own hands/trunks/lips/whatevers becomes far less important- at that point, anything that just spends a lot of time near humans would be noticeable. Cows, horses, cats, dogs, chickens, sheep, pigs, pigeons....

  • $\begingroup$ True, it took us a while to understand the true intelligence of dolphins. $\endgroup$ – Elvesflame Jun 30 '17 at 6:18
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    $\begingroup$ You have mentioned cats dogs sheep and so on, animals which humans domesticated. This creates a lot more problems in this setting. I think one should advice @MyrrdinEmries to not have those animals in his world or one should assume that none of them are intelligent which can easily be justified. If some of them are intelligent and some are not, if some could talk and some couldn't, the only logical assumption would be that the humans of this world are not intelligent themselves $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 30 '17 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 "the only logical assumption would be that the humans of this world are not intelligent themselves" Um... why? $\endgroup$ – Logan R. Kearsley Jun 30 '17 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ @LoganR.Kearsley - Humans are animals, and so may be similarly variable in intelligence. Also, domestication involves a lot of close contact with generations of animals, so if they didn't notice intelligence or the ability to speak, that is saying something. And, domesticating intelligent, speaking beings as we domesticated animals for seems, um, unlikely. Those intelligent would work against humans (self defense), those speaking would seem person-like enough for moral trouble (talking to vs eating). If humans aren't intelligent enough to domesticate (or not to notice), problem solved. $\endgroup$ – Megha Jul 1 '17 at 5:21
  • $\begingroup$ "Humans are animals" is not a statement of fact, it is a statement of definitions. If by "animal" you mean "member of the kingdom Animalia as defined by modern biological science", then humans are animals. But if you ask an average medieval peasant, humans aren't animals. In a typical medieval fantasy world, humans, elves, dwarves, etc. aren't animals; they're a different ontological class. As far as not domesticating intelligent, speaking beings... you may notice that humans have historically had few qualms about keeping human slaves. Exploiting non-humans would be far easier. $\endgroup$ – Logan R. Kearsley Jul 1 '17 at 5:37

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