Difference between human language and animal communication

Like human beings animals also communicate with one another through their communication systems which are called animal languages such as language of dolphins, language of bees. Animals have both discrete and non-discrete systems of communication but their messages as well as symbols are limited in quantity and dimension. On the other hand, human languages are much more surprisingly unlimited. Now we will discuss differences between human language and animal communication.

          The communication systems of most animals are instinctive. They inherit them genetically. None can separate animals from their inbuilt qualities. On the contrary, human language is non-instinctive. Humans can acquire and learn any thing and any language as a result of social interaction. For example, a baby and a puppy are growing up in the same environment hearing mostly the same thing. But about two years later the baby will make human noises while the puppy will not. In addition, Mowgli in the Jungle Book grew up in the animal environment and his communication systems became like animals.

Because of its having arbitrariness, human language is conditioned by geography- its culture, social and natural environment. The linguistic sign of the same object may differ from one geographical region to another. For example, what is called by the English to be ‘dog’ is called ‘perro’ by the Spanish, ‘sobaka’ by the Russian and ‘inee’ by the Japanese. On the other hand animal communication is not conditioned by geography. For instance, the dogs of all countries have the same system of message and symbols.
Animal communication is devoid of ‘novelty’, ‘creativity’ and ‘multiplicity’ to produce apt utterances according to different situations. Most animals have limited number of messages or symbols they can send or receive. While human language possesses the qualities. A human being can even in a most unlikely situation utter a sentence which has never been said before and if can still be understood.

          Human language is extendable and modifiable. The symbol or linguistic sign used in a language a hundred years ago may be extended, changed and even may not be used any more. But animal communication is opposite to this. For example, the bees and the monkeys use even now-a-days the same communication system which they used, say, five thousand years ago.

‘‘Duality and displacement-the organization of language into two layers, and the ability to talk about objects and events- are extremely rare in the animal world. No animal communication system has both these features, (Jean Aitchison, Linguistics: an Introduction; 1995:18)

          Humans produce sounds by the organs of speech, a rare gift of nature. No other species except apes and monkeys have been endowed with this gift.

          Other distinctions which can also be explained are given in the following manner:

Human language
Animal communication system
has grammaticality
has no grammaticality
descriptive and narrative
non- descriptive and narrative
cognitive as well as behavioral
only behavioral
open system
close system
structure dependent
not structure dependent


  1. Hi Muhammad Ali,

    Nice informative ideas u have shared here. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank u this is really helpful..i hope you keep on adding such topics. I am a student,and this is helpful for my studies.


Post a Comment