Why Can’t Animals Talk?

No doubt about it: animals can communicate. Sometimes it’s among themselves, such as when a meerkat sentry calls out to warn the community members of approaching danger. Some animals communicate with humans. How does your dog let you know when she’s hungry: sad eyes, pitiful whining, or a not-so-subtle nudge toward her food dish?

Though they can communicate, animals can’t use language. Language is considered a collection of specific symbols that can be put together in ways to form an unlimited number of meaningful combinations.

So you can say, “I want juice,” “The answer is x2-5y+32,” “Energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared,” and “Please pass the piano.” (OK, that last one is unlikely, but it is perfectly understandable. Just weird.)

Meanwhile, your dog can communicate her basic needs, likes, and dislikes, but the two of you won’t be discussing the latest music videos or how you look in your new shirt. (Trust us- dogs have notoriously poor fashion sense, anyway.)