Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can Dogs Talk? New Article in Scientific American

FD: Since seeing UP in 3D with the grandkids and Dug in his talking collar, the question comes up again... Do Dogs Talk?

Dug in the Cone of Shame.

Maya, a noisy, seven-year-old pooch, looks straight at me. And with just a little prompting from her owner says, "I love you." Actually, she says "Ahh rooo uuu!"
Maya is working hard to produce what sounds like real speech. "She makes these sounds that really, really sound like words to everyone who hears her, but I think you have to believe," says her owner, Judy Brookes. You've probably seen this sort of scene on YouTube and David Letterman. These dog owners may be onto something: Psychologist and dog expert Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia tells the story of a colleague who always greeted her dog, Brandy, with a cheerful, two-syllable "Hel-lo!" It wasn't long until Brandy returned the greeting, which sounded very much like her owner's salutation, says Coren, author of How to Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog–Human Communication.

But do dogs really talk?

Back in 1912 Harry Miles Johnson of Johns Hopkins University said, emphatically, "no."

In a paper in Science, he generally agreed with the findings of Oskar Pfungst of the Institute of Psychology at the University of Berlin who studied a dog famous for its large vocabulary.

The dog's speech is "the production of vocal sounds which produce illusion in the hearer," Johnson wrote.


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