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Animal Talk: Breaking the Codes of Animal Language [Hardcover]

Tim Friend
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 8 2004
Is it possible that there is a universal language spoken and understood by all animals on earth, including humans? Is human language unique, as linguists and philosphers have taught for centuries, or could it share and combine well-developed components of other species' communications? Do you long to know what wild animals are discussing and what your dog, cat, bird, fish, or horse is really saying?
Animal Talk, the first authoritative, popular book about animal communication, answers these and other provocative questions with often astonishing news about the latest scientific discoveries. Using his ten years of field research and numerous interviews with preeminent scientists in the field and under the sea, veteran journalist and popular science write Tim Friend helps us understand what lies behind the eyes, within the sounds and scents, and beneath the flashy displays and postures of our animal neighbors.
The world has an estimated 10 million species, all chattering away with noisy and smelly abandon, using their own seemingly unique and baffling signals. Nonetheless, Friend reveals that animals and humans can easily understand each other because every creature on earth "speaks" a common nonverbal language -- an animal Esperanto that has developed through hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Through a skillful interweaving of amazing facts and compelling true animal stories, Friend demonstrates how similar human behavior and language are to other species', including the ways we attract members of the opposite sex, rear children, and compete in society.
A scientific Dr. Dolittle, author Tim Friend is your guide on a fascinating tour of the animal kingdom. Along the way, he enlists the enthusiastic translation services of the top scientists in animal communication to show a wonderful range of animals in action, to explain the intricate ways in which they use signals, and to interpret what they mean by them. From the Amazon and Central American rainforests to deep into the Ozarks, every environment Friend visits reveals a fascinating new insight and clue to the great puzzle of how animals communicate within and between species -- and how the many tongues, stripes, and resonances of the animal kingdom laid the original foundation for our own language.
Animal Talk tells the grand story of animal communication through the stories and signals of the animals themselves. Vital to our understanding of birds and bees, dogs and dolphins, and ourselves and our fellow primates, Animal Talk is also vital to the survival of our planet.

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From Publishers Weekly

Friend, a longtime USA Today science writer, has written a delightful, entertaining and instructive book for the general public on animal communication. All kinds of animal lovers will enjoy his presentation of "the bigger picture" of animal talk in the wild-"how animals communicate with each other and what they spend so much time chattering to each other about." Friend provides readers with clear explanations of complex issues such as how the colorful and noisy signals of communication in the animal kingdom arose in the first place and to what extent animal systems of communication are similar to human language. Along the way, he impressively explores a wide range of related topics, such as how Descartes and Darwin influenced the study of animal sounds, the mating purpose of animal songs and the roots of whale communication research in Cold War technology. Friend is an engaging writer; throughout he displays a deft ability to capture the world of animal sound with just the right phrase, such as his description of tree frogs and insects in the Amazon rainforest "laying down a soulful energetic chorus like a choir at an old-fashioned, Southern tent revival," and his wry observation of rival male albatrosses attracting potential female mates by "clapping their beaks and moving their heads like Mick Jagger."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–A science reporter shows how a "new generation of scientists" has been "contributing to an increasingly rich appreciation for the intelligence and emotions that lie behind… animal eyes." Though it seems obvious now that life-forms evolving together on the same planet could be expected to have much in common, Western culture has denied human kinship with animals. Friend outlines the origins and fallacies behind the old beliefs; he also draws a distinction between anthropomorphizing and figuring out what people have in common with other species. A growing school of thought asserts that there is "one language with few words, and all species, including humans, continue to use it every day." Friend says that the sole topics of conversation, "regardless of race or species, [are] sex, real estate, who's boss, and what's for dinner." He illustrates his thesis with clear explanations of the science behind fascinating and far-ranging discoveries throughout the world and among many species. Much of the new knowledge has been made possible by new technology that allows us to detect, record, and analyze signals that were formerly beyond our perception, such as electrical signals or inaudible sounds. The information is organized into chapters such as "The Chemistry of Love," "Songs and Shouts," and "Flash and Dance," and the pages containing unexpurgated information about randy dolphin behavior, same-sex relationships in many species, wild elephant parties, and human pheromones will appeal to teens.–Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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JUST BEFORE MIDNIGHT, I crawl off my hammock and slip quietly from under the blessed drapes of mosquito netting. Read the first page
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5.0 out of 5 stars Animal Talk : Breaking the Codes of Animal Language April 15 2004
People have long wished for the ability to understand and communicate with animals. Friend, a science journalist for USA Today, delves into the mysteries of animal language and explains them in human terms. Basing his book on research currently being conducted by such noted scientists as Ian-Douglas Hamilton and Cynthia Moss (whom he interviewed), the author describes the methods of, and reasons behind, animal communication and demonstrates that human and animal communication are not so widely disparate as once believed. Friend also gives background details on the basics of communication theory, genetics, evolution, and the progression of scientific thought regarding animal communication. He generally does an excellent job explaining scientific research and principles, although there are a few instances where complex scientific terminology could have been explained more clearly. He is especially adept at using popular culture in his metaphors and at relating examples to human experiences. Although similar to Lesley J. Rogers and Gisela Kaplan's scholarly and advanced look at animal behavior, Songs, Roars and Rituals: Communication in Birds, Mammals and Other Animals, Friend's book is more readable and focuses on the similarity between human and animal communication. His humorous and engaging prose style makes this a captivating read, suitable for both public and academic libraries.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Who Needs Dr. Dolittle? March 9 2004
Current understanding of human language says that we all have portions of our brains directly assigned to language processing, and that every human language is at foundation the same, with nouns, verbs, and so on all doing the same job in each. As described by one theorist, a man from Mars examining humans might find we were all speaking the same language, only in different dialects. What if we looked at an even broader sample of creatures on the planet? Tim Friend, a science journalist, in _Animal Talk: Breaking the Codes of Animal Language_, reviews all the many ways that animals have of talking to each other (not just by sound), to find that there is a far broader understanding between animals of different species (including humans) than we may have guessed before. Humans have developed remarkable and complex verbal languages, but it's the nonverbal communication that we often share with animals. It is not too surprising, given that natural selection and sexual selection have operated on us all from the beginning, that we animals share a range of signals. Not only that, but we talk about the same things every day: "... that is, sex, real estate, who's boss, and what's for dinner."
To be sure, reviewed here are many ways that animals communicate in which humans cannot participate. We don't use the pheromones that bacteria use to exchange information, nor do we signal bees with dances. But insects and animals use yellow or red colors as a universal signal for "stay away," and everyone knows what a rattlesnake's noise means. More significant, however, in Friend's book are the sounds that we share with other animals. Many of these are obvious. For instance, imagine you are talking to a baby; you instinctively use a high pitch and soft, smooth tones.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a great ride around the world Feb. 26 2004
By A Customer
This science book, disguised as a nature travelogue, is a great ride, not to mention engaging and delightfully accessible. You start in the Amazon forest and end up on some of the world's most exotic islands. Along the way, you learn what you have in common with songbirds, glowing bacteria, orcas, and more, and remember why you feel so close to animals. You'll learn Darwinian biology without breaking a sweat. And you'll never again think you can deceive your loved ones by holding your tongue.
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A well-travelled science writer with an enjoyable style discusses various types of animal communication, from vocalizations to pheramones. Unfortunately the light-hearted writing sometimes gets in the way of presenting interesting information. (But there's some great stuff about the sex lives of dolphins in chapter nine.) If you usually find science books too dry or are interested in animals, give this a try.
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