Volume 1 No. 10Communication and Speech
Sometimes the best approach to understanding our past is to sit down and understand our present. Understanding our present is one of the preoccupations of humans. Humans have learned a lot about themselves over the years, but, at the same time, they have lost knowledge they have acquired about all creatures around them. Even with all their advances in self-comprehension, they have come upon the fact that some things are unfathomable, such as human speech.
Human speech, I have heard tell, is far more complicated than humans believed. Just as humans assumed for centuries that the sun moved around the earth and not the other way around, or that the earth was flat, humans generally have assumed that speech was a simple matter of infants listening to those around them and copying their words. However, the ability to copy the sounds of words was associated with age and developmental maturity of tongue, mouth, and vocal chords. This may not be the case. At least, not completely.
From what I understand about the latest research on the development of human speech, speech is not a string of words that take on meaning within the set of words surrounding it. Speech is a string, or series, of sounds. If you were to listen to any human language with which you are unfamiliar, you hear just that: a string of sounds. Not words. Not syllables. Sounds. Listen to it well and you will find the sounds quite musical.
This is an interesting point as I also have heard that some scientists believe humans produced music long before they used speech. Music consists of series of sounds. It can be produced by human-made instruments, using things found from nature, such as a branch. It can be produced by using different parts of the human body directly, including the voice. The voice also is used in speech. Since both music and speech can be reduced to nothing more than a string of sound using the same portions of the human body, it can be said that speech is music and music is speech.
On any given beautiful day, whether it is winter or summer, go outside and listen. It won’t be long before you hear sounds, one of which is what often is referred to as the songs of birds. Songs. If birds do sing, and the act of singing is a form of speech, then we can say the sounds we hear are the amalgamation of bird speech. In fact, humans have concluded the so-called bird songs are filled with messages of one bird to one or more other birds. Messages are a form of communication. Since this communication uses a form of vocality, it can be construed as speech, speech that birds understand.
Listen again and you may hear the sound of dogs barking. Listen well. In residential neighbourhoods, you will find one dog in one backyard and another dog a few backyards away. Pay attention. One dog will begin. He’ll stop barking and the other dog will bark. This dog will stop and the first will start again. Before long, you are observing, or rather listening to, the bantering of two dogs. Sometimes this bantering takes on the form of a round or even a canon, but, most often, it takes on the form of a basic conversation between two creatures. In the first case, it is a musical form. In the latter case, we cannot deny the communication between the two dogs. Therefore, the dogs are speaking to each other.
There are scientists who do not refute the fact that animals do communicate, especially within their own species. However, few believe animals understand each other on a cross-species level. Even fewer, if any at all, call animal communication speech despite the fact they now believe speech to be nothing more than a series of sounds.
Luckily, there is one scientist in the world who may be able to break down this archaic way of thinking or believing only humans are capable of speech even in the light of agreement that animals communicate through musical sounds which in itself implies speech. This one scientist proposes that our approach towards gorillas and monkeys has been incorrect all these years. Without our attempting to understand these relatives of ours, we have taught them to use human language. It has been partially successful, but communication barriers still prevail. This scientist proposes that humans study gorilla and monkey behaviour and approach these creatures in that form. In other words, approach them in the same manner in which they approach each other. Apparently, the communication gap does shrink when we, as humans, study the other creature and attempt to communicate as they do. Then it seems the other creatures are more willing to communicate with us.
All of this is to say a simple little thing: deep down humans admit that humans are not the only creatures on this planet capable of speech, but they fear admitting this aloud should they appear foolish. I believe they are foolish not to listen to their inner selves and say what they know is true out loud.
Also, these findings have renewed my hope with my quest, at a time when I began to question my sanity, as well as that of Dr. O’Logist and Miss Longste. It must be that we have lost the ability to speak with other creatures over the eons just as sure as we have lost the ability to speak with other humans. I still have the arduous task of locating the time and space this loss has occurred. But, in the meantime, I can be relieved to know at least one other person out there is attempting cross-creature communication by learning the language of the other creatures.
Lydia Lavrenik, Editor