Elephant Songs

March 6, 2010

The other night I came across a podcast that got me pondering on the role of speech in communication. As a Feldenkrais® practitioner I’m always thinking about how I can improve my verbal skills so when I direct students through an Awareness Through Movement® lesson my directions and their actions will meld into a delicious somatic experience. It is interesting to me that a whole string of sounds can come out of my mouth and the person on the floor will move in a particular way. But there is more to language than that. Obviously it’s not simply the coordinated noises that come out of our mouths which allow us to communicate thoughts, feelings and actions. There are their other aspects of language that are none verbal. For instance, a musician will say that a piece of music speaks to her, a painter will read a painting and a dancer will express herself through a vocabulary of movements. When we include these aspects as a relevant part of language it has a much broader scope.

Up to now it was felt that the domain of verbal communication was exclusively human. However there is growing evidence that has animal researchers asking the question, do animal sounds constitute language? Animal communication researcher Katy Payne has been studying the sounds of African elephants and humpback whales for decades. In1999,

Payne founded the Elephant Listening Project to monitor elephants’ movements. At this point in time, Katy has been able to identify sounds that appear to have a consistent meaning within a particular group of elephants.

Perhaps at some point we will all become “Dr. Dolittles” as we learn to talk to the animals.

Check out Katy’s podcast—it’s about 20 minutes and well worth the time.



There are no comments on this post yet.

Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Awareness Through Movement®, and Functional Integration® are registered service marks of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America. Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner ™ and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher ™ are certification marks of the Feldenkrais Guild®.