Monday, March 27, 2006

Crow language

I was Googling for an essay I'm planning to write on reduplication in Siouan languages the other day, so I typed in "Crow language". I was somewhat surprised to come across an article on the vocalizations of the American crow as my second hit, so I thought I'd share it. Apparently, 27 different vocalizations have been noted in the scientific literature (with names like "scolding call", "distress call", "courtship vocalizations", and "pre-mortality call"), and many remain undeciphered, so to speak. It would certainly be interesting to get a really good idea of the communication system of an animal as intelligent as the crow; bees are all very well, but perhaps a little too alien to compare sensibly with human language.

I never did find anything very helpful online on the Crow language, but John Boyle's Siouan Languages Bibliography will certainly come in handy, and this sketch of Omaha-Ponca seems good, though of limited use for what I'm researching.


Paul Davidson said...

There was a fascinating article in American Scientist a few issues ago about the song of the North American male chickadee. Its song is two notes, which can vary in pitch but always have the same pitch relationship to each other. Its song is the same wherever the bird is found. However, this song is learned only from mature chickadees (almost like a language is learned), and birds raised in solitary captivity cannot reproduce it.

Lameen Souag said...

Very interesting. The next experiment ought to test whether they can be brought up to sing a different song... Have you got a link?

Patrick Hall said...

By way of a circuitous route I ended up looking for grammatical material on Dakota, and dug this up:

Sketch of Lakhota, T.O.C.

It's only in now, I suspect that it's a copyright infringement. Actually, it seems to be transcribed from volume 17 of the Handbook of North American Indians, which isn't to hard to find.