January 18, 2008

Parsing dog talk

It gives me no pleasure to record — though I must in light of my duties on the Stupid Animal Communication Stories desk here at Language Log — that a Hungarian scientist has created some software that is claimed to be able to actually understand the barking of dogs of the Hungarian Mudi breed. The barks can be decoded to discern the dogs' emotional state: "when a dog has seen a ball, when it is fighting, playing, meeting a stranger or when it wants a walk." This was accomplished through the analysis of 6,000 barks by 14 dogs. And if you truly have nothing the slightest bit valuable to do today, you can read about it here.

The scientist involved, Csaba Molnar, "told the BBC it may have applications for analysis of human communication", and of course the BBC immediately believed them. He told Reuters that "A possible commercial application could be a device for dog-human communication." I'm sure that if you are the sort of person to whom this has any appeal, you already believe that your dog understands every word you say. Now you can understand every word your dog says back. Just don't bother to report any of its opinions to me, OK? Oh, and I am fully aware that on the Internet nobody knows you're a dog; so to all our canine readers, let me just say: arf arf arf, woof woof. Thank you.

Hat tip: Sam Tucker.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at January 18, 2008 08:47 AM