Titi semantics : context and meaning in Titi monkey call sequences
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Cäsar et al. (2013) show that the structure of Titi monkey call sequences can, with just two call types (A and B), reflect information about predator type and predator location. Using the general methods of Schlenker et al. (2014, 2016, to appear), we ask what these observations show about the 'linguistic' structure of Titi calls. We first demonstrate that the simplest behavioral assumptions make it challenging to provide lexical specifications for A- and B-calls: B-calls rather clearly have the distribution of highly underspecified calls; but A-calls are also found in highly heterogeneous contexts (e.g. they are triggered by 'cat in the canopy' and 'raptor on the ground' situations). We discuss two possible solutions to the problem. One posits that entire sequences are endowed with meanings that are not compositionally derived from their individual parts (a related idea was proposed by Arnold and Zuberbühler to analyze pyow-hack sequences in Putty-nosed monkeys). The second solution, which we consider to be superior, takes sequences to have no structure besides concatenation: the Bcall is a general call, the A-call is used for serious non-ground threats, and each call reflects information about the environment at the time at which it is uttered. The composition of Cäsar et al.'s sequences is seen to follow from the interaction between call meaning, rules of competition among calls, and more sophisticated assumptions about the environmental context. In the end, a detailed analysis of the division of labor between semantics, pragmatics and the environmental context yields a simple and explanatory analysis of sequences that initially seemed to display a complex mapping between syntax and semantics.
Schlenker , P , Chemla , E , Cäsar , C , Ryder , R & Zuberbuehler , K 2017 , ' Titi semantics : context and meaning in Titi monkey call sequences ' Natural Language and Linguistic Theory , vol 35 , no. 1 , pp. 271-298 . DOI: 10.1007/s11049-016-9337-9
Natural Language and Linguistic Theory
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016. This work is made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://dx.doi.org10.1007/s11049-016-9337-9
Grant acknowledgements: Cäsar: The research leading to these results received funding from the CAPES-Brazil, FAPEMIG-Brazil, S.B. LEAKEY TRUST and the University of St Andrews. Chemla and Schlenker: Research by Schlenker and Chemla was conducted at Institut d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure – PSL Research University. Institut d’Etudes Cognitives is supported by grants ANR-10-LABX-0087 IEC et ANR-10-IDEX-0001-02 PSL. Schlenker: The research leading to these results received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) / ERC Grant Agreement n°324115- FRONTSEM (PI:Schlenker). Zuberbühler: The research leading to these results received funding from the European Research Council under ERC grant ‘Prilang 283871’ and also from the Swiss National Science Foundation under grant ‘FN 310030_143359/1’.
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