April 20, 2007

Next animal-fancier story: parrot nomenclature

No sooner does one point out one insane piece of glottobabble about animals with language behaviors than another one springs up. From Evan Bradley comes a reference to an article about parrots giving unique names to their chicks. (He came upon it within ten minutes of reading my post about chick talk, and remarks that "it's clear our future avian overlords are planning something.") I will say very little about this (though I cannot forebear to point out that the researcher cited is named "Dr Rolf Wanker"; exactly the name I would have chosen for him if I were writing a rich comic novel). I'll say just this much: Suppose parrots do indeed develop unique calls for bringing each of their individual chicks to their side, which is perfectly possible. Names are different. When I use a name like "Elvis", I am not trying to make Elvis come to my side. We humans give names to our kids, names that can be used when talking about them. We don't just use uniquely targeted calls to summon them. Do you see the difference?

No, of course you don't; you're all going to send me emails about how wonderful and intelligent your parrots are and what a horrid meanie I am for not acknowledging their wonderfulness and their beautiful language and literature. (I wish I were clever enough to think of a good joke at this point about juvenile birds creating a genre called chick lit; but I'm not clever enough. Anyway, I'm very busy right now deleting emails from vegetarians.)

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at April 20, 2007 05:29 PM