November 30, 2021

Language is the ability to express a thought and communicate by means of a system of signs (vocal, gestural, graphics, tactile, olfactory, etc.) endowed with semantics, and most often with syntax - but it is not systematic (cartography is an example of non-syntactic language). The fruit of an acquisition, language is one of the many manifestations of language.

Language as a communication system

Languages ​​are made up of signals corresponding to the physical medium of information. The transmission of these signals is made possible thanks to various structures whose evolution has enabled communication to be improved.

Structures and associated mechanisms

Visual signals

Gestures are the most well-known method of communication, used by various species, including all primates. This is also the case with bees and their dances: when an explorer bee returns to its hive after finding a source of nectar, it can perform a round dance indicating that this source is within 50 meters, or a dance in figure eight indicating that this source is more distant. In addition, the speed and duration of these dances testify to the abundance of nectar. Facial expression, more widespread, makes it possible to guess certain emotions of an animal, in order to act accordingly. Thus, for example, we will know that a dog is angry when he shows his teeth. The change in color and bioluminescence can vary depending on a breeding season, health condition or environmental environment.

Acoustic signals

Acoustic signals include voice communication, essential for many species such as birds, whales (with several dialects depending on the region), monkeys or even prairie dogs using one of the most complex communication systems able to describe the type of predator, its size and its speed to its congeners ,. There are also acoustic signals based on the vibration of the substrate: elephants, for example, emit vibratory signals by hitting the ground with their legs that can be received by other elephants several kilometers away.

Chemical signals

It is the oldest method of communication, yet the least understood due to the abundance of other chemicals in the environment as well as the difficulty to detect and measure. The functions of these signals have diversified a lot, they can play an important role in intra and interspecies communication, as well as in the detection of resources. This system can reach high levels of complexity, allowing intraspecific eusocial relationships as in ants.

Tactile signals

Touch can be an important factor during social interactions, fights (to challenge an opponent), or reproduction. These signals are also used in "huddling" strategies (aggregation of individuals).

Electrical signals

Much rarer, electro-communication, which can only be carried out in water, generates an electric field detected by electro-receptors. The differences in the amplitude and frequency of this field allow the transmission of information on the species, sex, and state of health of the individual. These signals can only be used if they follow four stages: production, transmission, reception and interpretation. Production alone constitutes a large part of the associated costs, since it will often require the presence of specialized organs (larynx of mammals, pheromonal glands of bees, etc.) In addition, to the organ itself, is added the cost of having a cont

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