Analysis of Do Domestic Dogs Learn Words Based on Human's Referential Behaviour

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Megan Woodby May 13, 2014 Analysis of Do Domestic Dogs Learn Words Based on Human's Referential Behaviour The history of interaction between humans and dogs is said to span over thousands of years. Scientists have discovered a 36,000 year old dog skull in Belgium that show indications of potential domestication (. Though many species of animal interact and in one way or another communicate with humans, only certain species react to spoken language and arbitrary symbols. The authors of Do Domestic Dogs Learn Words Based on Human's Referential Behaviour, focus their study of language learning and comprehension skills on canines. In this study they reference many other similar studies and correlate the data with that of the developmental processes of human children, specifically their ability to derive the meaning of words from specific social-pragmatic cues. They question whether dogs would be able to form relationships between words and objects without spatial-temporal contiguity and make connections between the arbitrary symbolism of a word and a referent object. These skills are critical for the development of a communication system such as human language. Dogs have adapted to living within human societies quite well and seem to understand referential behaviors such as nonverbal gestures from the time they are puppies. These comprehension skills would suggest that it is a species specific adaptation that assists in the communication between humans and dogs. The authors perform three different experiments to test if dogs were able to actually learn new words and cognitively associate those labels to specific objects. For their experiments the authors chose four Border Collies that had previous experience with associating labels to objects. The subjects had been trained by their owners to retrieve specific toys based on words assigned to each object, and

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