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Study: Elephants Have Learned To Tell Certain Languages Apart 62

sciencehabit writes "Whether we realize it, African elephants are listening to us. The pachyderms can tell certain human languages apart and even determine our gender, relative age, and whether we're a threat, according to a new study. The work illustrates how elephants can sometimes protect themselves from human actions. The work may be helpful in preventing 'human-elephant conflicts where the species co-exist,' says Joshua Plotnik, a behavioral ecologist at Mahidol University, Kanchanaburi, in Thailand. For instance, elephants might be deterred from entering farmland or encouraged to stick to the corridors designed for their use. 'The trouble is elephants are too smart to be fooled by us for long.'"
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Study: Elephants Have Learned To Tell Certain Languages Apart

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  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Monday March 10, 2014 @06:38PM (#46450489)

    I would expect that they're either keying off certain words, or that they're going off phonology (the sounds that are used in a language). It might be a good follow-up study to figure out what method they use to make this distinction (TFA does not say, and the paper is paywalled).

    I also wonder how fine a distinction between languages they can make. How close are the Kamba and Maasai languages? If they're relatively distant (like, say, English and Maasai), how do they deal with closer languages (like English and German, or even Spanish and Portuguese)? Are they able to distinguish accents?

  • by ahabswhale ( 1189519 ) on Monday March 10, 2014 @10:49PM (#46452001)

    It's because man always judges intelligence based on human standards, which is completely idiotic. It would be like me (as a programmer) judging an English professor as an idiot because he doesn't understand code. I'm sure from the perspective of elephants, we're pretty fucking stupid at being elephants. Our intellect isn't well suited for their life style and vice versa.

    In short, you're right...human hubris is nearly unbounded. It's very convenient though; we don't have to respect other life on this planet so we can exploit it without regard.

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury