149 A. N. Whitehead and B. Russell, Principia Mathematica, London, Cambridge University Press, 1910.

same species. It is meaningful, first, in the sense that it affects a recipient animal's behavior, and, second, in the sense that perceptible failure to achieve appropriate meaning in the first sense will affect the behavior of both animals. What I say to you may be totally ineffective, but my ineffectiveness, if perceptible, will affect both you and me. I stress this point because it must be remembered that in all relationships between man and some other animal, especially when that animal is a dolphin, a very large proportion of the behavior of both organisms is determined by this kind of ineffectiveness.

When I view the behavior of dolphins as communication, the mammalian label implies, for me, something very definite. Let me illustrate what I have in mind by an example from Benson Ginsburg's wolf pack in the Brookfield Zoo.

Among the Canidae, weaning is performed by the mother. When the puppy asks for milk, she presses down with her open mouth on the back of his neck, crushing him down to the ground. She does this repeatedly until he stops asking. This method is used by coyotes, dingoes, and the domestic dog. Among wolves the system is different. The puppies graduate smoothly from the nipple to regurgitated food. The pack comes back to the den with their bellies full. All regurgitate what they have got and all eat together. At some point the adults start to wean the puppies from these meals, using the method employed by the other Canidae; the adult crushes the puppy down by pressing its open mouth on the back of the puppy's neck. In the wolf this function is not confined to the mother, but is performed by adults of both sexes.

The pack leader of the Chicago pack is a magnificent male animal who endlessly patrols the acre of land to which the pack is confined. He moves with a beautiful trot that appears tireless, while the other eight or nine members of the pack spend most of their time dozing. When the females come in heat they usually proposition the leader, bumping against him with their rear ends. Usually, however, he does not respond, though he does act to prevent other males from getting the females. Last year one of these males succeeded in establishing coitus with a female. As in the other Canidae, the male wolf is locked in the female, unable to withdraw his penis, and this animal was helpless. Up rushed the pack leader. What did he do to the helpless male who dared to infringe the leader's prerogatives? Anthropomorphism would suggest that he would tear the helpless male to pieces. But no. The film shows that he pressed down the head of the offending male four times with his open jaws and then simply walked away.

What are the implications for research from this illustration? What the pack leader does is not describable, or only insufficiently described, in S-R terms. He does not "negatively reinforce" the other male's sexual activity. He asserts or affirms the nature of the relationship between himself and the other. If we were to translate the pack leader's action into words, the words would not be "Don't do that." Rather, they would translate the metaphoric action: "I am your senior adult male, you puppy!" What I am trying to say about wolves in particular, and about preverbal mammals in general, is that their discourse is primarily about the rules and the contingencies of relationship.

Let me offer a more familiar example to help bring home to you the generality of this view, which is by no means orthodox among ethologists. When your cat is trying to tell you to give her food, how does she do it? She has no word for food or for milk. What she does is to make movements and sounds that are characteristically those that a kitten makes to a mother cat. If we were to translate the cat's message into words, it would not be correct to say that she is crying "Milk!" Rather, she is saying something like "Ma-ma!" Or, perhaps still more correctly, we should say that she is asserting "Dependency! Dependency!" The cat talks in terms of patterns and contingencies of relationship, and from this talk it is up to you to take a deductive step, guessing that it is milk that the cat wants. It is the necessity for this deductive step which marks the difference between preverbal mammalian communication and both the communication of bees and the languages of men.

What was extraordinary — the great new thing —in the evolution of human language was not the discovery of abstraction or generalization, but the discovery of how to be specific about something other than relationship. Indeed, this discovery, though it has been achieved, has scarcely affected the behavior even of human beings. If A says to B, "The plane is scheduled to leave at 6.30," B rarely accepts this remark as simply and solely a statement of fact about the plane. More often he devotes a few neurons to the question, "What does A's telling me this indicate for my relationship to A?" Our mammalian ancestry is very near the surface, despite recently acquired linguistic tricks.

Be that as it may, my first expectation in studying dolphin communication is that it will prove to have the general mammalian characteristic of being primarily about relationship. This premise is in itself perhaps sufficient to account for the sporadic development of large brains among mammals. We need not complain that, as elephants do not talk and whales invent no mousetraps, these creatures are not overtly intelligent. All that is needed is to suppose that large-brained creatures were, at some evolutionary stage, unwise enough to get into the game of relationship and that, once the species was caught in this game of interpreting its members' behavior toward one another as relevant to this complex and vital subject, there was survival value for those individuals who could play the game with greater ingenuity or greater wisdom. We may, then, reasonably expect to find a high complexity of communication about relationship among the Cetacea. Because they are mammals, we may expect that their communication will be about, and primarily in terms of, patterns and contingencies of relationship. Be-cause they are social and large-brained, we may expect a high degree of complexity in their communication.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Supreme Sobriety

Supreme Sobriety

How to Maintain Your Resolution to Be Sober. Get All The Support And Guidance You Need To Be A Success At Sobriety. This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Turning Your Love For Cooking Into A Money Maker.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment