This Autumn I will be giving the course Communication and language in animals at the Higher Education for Older People (Hoger Onderwijs Voor Ouderen) Brabant, at their location in Eindhoven. The course will consist of the following six lessons. In the first lesson we will discuss the definitions and characteristics of communication and human language. We will look at animal communication and ask the question whether animals only communicate their passions and emotions, or whether they can also refer to things and situations in the outside world. The second class will be about the calls and songs of birds. In what way do the songs of songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds share similarities with human language? The songs of humpback whales will also be presented. The third lesson will be about the natural communication of great apes (facial expressions, vocalisations and gestures). The fourth lesson will present the language research carried out with great apes. Attempts to teach chimpanzees and other apes spoken words and signs will be discussed. In the fifth lesson my own research with signing chimpanzees will be presented and we will discuss the work with the bonobo Kanzi and his use of geometric symbols or lexigrams. In the last lesson the language research with dolphins, sealions, parrots and dogs will be discussed. The parrot Alex and his use of human words will be presented, as well as the recent studies with border collie dogs, who appear to understand hundreds of human words for toys.
The course is available for people of 50 years and older. The lessons will be given in Dutch, but a passive knowledge of English is required, because not all the short films that I will show have subtitles in Dutch. The course will be given on Friday afternoons, from 13.00 to 14.45. The dates of the course: 26 October, and 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30 November 2012. To register for this course, go to the website of HOVO Brabant. Registration is open until September 30. For more information about the course, go to my Dutch website. Looking forward to meet you in Eindhoven this Autumn!