Comparing the Learnedness and Flexibility Found in Human Language to Horse Communication

1510 WordsFeb 23, 20186 Pages
Man’s relationship with horses extends back thousands of years. They have impacted wars, provided transportation, and improved farming techniques; all while being great companions for humans. Though they play this pivotal role in human history, only a few studies have been conducted to help us understand what they express through their vocalizations, and their ability to recognize individuals. Horses encompass a wide array of verbal and nonverbal cues in their communication. Vocalizations and body language can convey caller’s sex, body size, identity, motivation, and physiological states (Yeon, 2012, p.180). Horses are social creatures making the information encoded and decoded in verbal and nonverbal communication extremely important within their social structures. Vocal communication transmits information about horses’ state of mind; this can be done using a combination of vocal and laryngeal sounds. Horses use 10 distinctive sounds when communicating vocally and each of these express different meanings (Zlotnik, 2012). These distinct sounds are neighs (whinnies), whispers, nickers, squeals, screams, groans, blows, snores, snorts, and roars. Snores, blows, and snorts are unique in that they are used with the throat and nose not vocal cords. Understanding these vocalizations is essential in revealing horse’s motivation and improving horse-human relationships, as well as if these calls are referential, learned and can be used flexibly. A study conducted by Yeon (2012)

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