You may not want to admit it, but at one time in your life, you’ve talked to an animal. Maybe it was letting a dog know it was a good dog or asking a cat where it’s been. Maybe you gave words of encouragement to an elephant or scolded a sheep. Whichever animal it was you talked to, one thing is for sure; it probably didn’t talk back. What if it could? Scientists are working on ways to not only understand what animals are saying, but to one day talk back, forever changing the way we think about them.
No one has yet proven that an animal or a species has language, partly because the idea of what constitutes a language hasn’t really been established. But in the broad sense, language should be a distinct and organized pattern of communication, with a near infinite number of combinations, that has been learned and used voluntarily, not in a reactionary or instinctual manner. When your dog barks when a squirrel runs past, this is a predictable and instinctual response, so we don’t consider it language. But there have been studies that have shown some do communicate in a very complex manner that show traits of language. So, how close are we to talking with animals?