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Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals Hardcover – 12 Dec 2012

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St Martin's Press (12 Dec. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031261179X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312611798
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.9 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 333,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


[Slobodchikoff] seemlessly intersperses wry, fascinating animal examples of language use and style with examples of human interaction that illuminate the complexity of animal comminication. [He] puts the world of animal communication into a realm that readers can readily understand appreciate, and marvel at. Highly recommended. "Library Journal" Con Slobodchikoff has done some fantastic work on animal communication. His research on prairie dog language is mind-blowing. "Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation" Con Slobodchikoff is a highly respected scientist who is able to translate the results of groundbreaking scientific studies into a popular format that is easy for anyone without a scientific background to understand."Chasing Doctor Dolittle "is written with clarity, persuasion, and singular authority. It is a wonderful, deeply insightful book. "Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie About Love" Con Slobodchikoff has been studying the social behavior and language of prairie dogs for many years and and has shown clearly that these social, family-oriented rodents have one of the most complex communication systems among nonhuman animals who have been studied in detail. His popular writings call upon his vast research experience and they have an entertaining and easy-to-read style. Con is also able to simplify complicated ideas for non-scientists without losing their scientific validity. "Chasing Doctor Dolittle" will appeal to anyone who wants to learn more about the fascinating lives of many of the animals with whom we share our planet. "Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, and The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons For Expanding Our Compassion Footprint" This is a revolutionary book. Con Slobodchikoff's well-reasoned arguments that animals have language are a breath of fresh air. "Jonathan Balcombe, author of Pleasurable Kingdom and Second Nature" With this bold book, biologist Con Slobodchikoff strides into that hushed corner of science where animal communication is studied intensely but the word "language" is rarely whispered. Just as Donald R. Griffin tried to shake us out of stereotyped thinking about animals and their consciousness, Slobodchikoff asks us to reconsider our definitions of language, what it consists of, and what it does. Amazingly, given the scientific complexities of his topic, he has written an easily accessible book with anecdotes that will cause any dog or cat fancier to take a long, speculative look at the animals in the house. "Holly Menino, author of Calls Beyond Our Hearing""

About the Author

CON SLOBODCHIKOFF is a professor of biology at Northern Arizona University and director of the Animal Language Institute. He has a B.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I only write reviews when I believe a book or product warrants it. This is definitely one such occasion.

This publication is articulate, informative, comprises cogent scientific and linguistic arguments, is comical in parts, and is incredibly forward-thinking. It posits some astounding ideas about how we answer the challenge of assessing and examining animal communication forms, the language definition question, as well as the human response to the natural world.

This is an absolute must for anyone interested in animal communication, language origins, behavioural studies, and even animal ethics. I look forward to reading Professor Slobodchikoff's other works soon!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Highly enjoyable book that's equally accessible to those with a scientific/academic interest as it is to non-scientists who just think animals are fascinating. This was actually a present for a friend who's interested in Slobodchikoff's prairie dog research, but I ended up having a sneaky read first myself and couldn't put it down. A fantastic read, full or original and meticulous research, fairly ground-breaking hypotheses and some really surprising conclusions.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa13a9fa8) out of 5 stars 40 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11cae88) out of 5 stars A must read for all who want to understand the language of animals 15 Jan. 2013
By Dianne - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chasing Doctor Doolittle by Con Slobodchikoff, PhD, is an absolutely fascinating and intriguing interpretation of the language of animals. Dr. Con is a well respected scientist who, with his team, has recorded and decoded vocalizations of prairie dogs through - the Discourse System - as he discovered the complexities of language within an animal community.

From his earliest memory of learning the English language at just 5 years old, until his years of research with prairie dogs, and throughout his years of observations of a variety of animals, his perception, his observations and his desire to teach others about language in animals will keep you glued to the pages of this book.

Dr. Con's personal account is easy reading in that he effectively combines his personal experiences with his scientific findings to create a unique literary style that educates those who share his yearning to understand animal language. He not only relates what he sees and hears; he backs up his findings with scientific data, and offers a logical explanation as to the complex language of prairie dogs. His descriptions and personal stories of his observations of behavior in animals makes sense to those who love animals, and creates a pause for those who are swayed only by scientific evidence.

In Chasing Doctor Doolittle, Dr. Con challenges the reader "to cross the vast chasm" that humans build between them and animals. A line on the final page sums up what this book is all about: "For us, the idea that other animals have language is a bridge back to the natural world." This is a book written from the heart and soul, but based upon years of research, and is a must read!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11d3924) out of 5 stars Excellent Book for Animal Lovers! 7 Dec. 2012
By Clydestar510 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Chasing Doctor Dolittle is such a fun read. I really liked how the author mixed in his personal anecdotes among the science, like his telling what he did when a black mamba came rushing toward him at night in Africa. He brings in some of his amazing work with prairie dog language, and also talks about the languages of a lot of other species, such as whales, dolphins, monkeys, birds, and even ants and bees. The general premise is that a lot of different animals have language, not just us, and he develops his Discourse Theory to show how language is like an organ system possessed by many animals. The book is quite convincing in showing how animals can use language to signal alarm, find mates, show the location of food, greet each other, and tell each other to back off. If you like animals and want to curl up with a good book for a couple of enjoyable hours, Chasing Doctor Dolittle is definitely for you.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11d3828) out of 5 stars Delightful, Informative, and Entertaining 13 Dec. 2012
By AKL - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chasing Doctor Dolittle is a fascinating book on animal communication and language. Con Slobodchikoff has been studying and researching animal behavior and communication for the last 40 years, and in this book he shares his observations and experiences in a very readable and enjoyable way. The science is neatly and understandably interwoven with entertaining -- and relevant -- personal anecdotes and a huge number of examples of different sorts of animal communication or language which were so interesting I couldn't put the book down. (Do you know, for example, that the "push-ups" you often see lizards doing are actually a communication tool, or language? He talks about communicating with them --and evidently, after a while boring them -- by imitating their head bobs and push-ups.) The animals discussed range from bees to lizards to various birds and a wide range of mammals, including dogs, bats, apes, monkeys, hippos, hyenas, foxes, deer and of course prairie dogs, whose language he discovered and which he has studied most intensively. This is good stuff!

If you like animals, and especially if you are interested in animal behavior and communication, you can't go wrong with this book. (I read a few sample pages on Amazon and I was hooked.)

Now I just wish he'd write a book giving me details of how to really converse with my dog...
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11d23e4) out of 5 stars Don't Expect New Revelations 3 Sept. 2013
By J. Higham - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I expected this book to be about the author's research on animal communications, but there is very little about his research experiences, methods, findings, or ideas about how we might learn an animal language. This is disappointing to me.

As someone who's studied several human languages, loves animals, and has always believed that animals act on more than mere instinct, I did enjoy this book overall. It addresses my interests sufficiently and is written by someone whose research supports my belief that animals do, in fact, communicate. The book is full of interesting anecdotes about encounters with animals, and it is an easy read.

I was bored by much of the early discussion on information theory, some of which does not even seem relevant to the idea of conscious (beyond instinctual) communication. Much of the content is a description of specific, but well-known animal activities and vocalizations, and speculation that these things amount to communication. I have no doubt that animals communicate using a variety of methods, but I was disappointed that there was more speculation than there was discussion about research.

I recommend this book to anyone who is fascinated by animals and modes of communication, but don't expect it to reveal any exciting new revelations.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11d8d98) out of 5 stars When Animals Speak, Do You Listen? 28 Dec. 2013
By Bear rEvolution - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The controversy over animal languages is typically approached by trying to identify key features of human language (e.g., syntax, semantics, arbitrary signals, efficient signaling, redundancy), then looking to see which of those features also show up in animal-animal communication. If and when observations fail to reveal those features, researchers often leap to the conclusion that animal communication does not really involve "true" language. However, Slobodchikoff shrewdly shows numerous examples where human communication often lacks some of those features. Valid comparison between human and animal communication systems thus requires a much more sophisticated assessment -- which Slododchikoff proceeds to provide. He finds no animal communication system displaying all key elements of human language; but there are few if any key elements which are not displayed by at least one, if not several species of animal -- which is doubly impressive given that we know so little about communication by most species. Much of his own research has focused on alarm signals, in part because their BASIC meaning is obvious: "danger." So his primary challenge has been documenting variations in those signals to decipher how those variations modify meaning. The prairie dogs he studies can describe intruders by species (e.g. human vs. dog vs. coyote vs. hawk or eagle), location (at ground level or in the air), color, shape, speed of approach, direction of approach, and risk. Their communication contains both nouns and verbs, which they color with adjectives and adverbs. There may not be many “words” of each kind in a prairie dog’s repertoire, but all the kinds are there. In this sense, prairie dog communication differs from human language less in quality than in quantity. The same is true for many other species. And where qualitative differences do exist, human’s aren’t always better endowed. Not only do some animals hear or see at frequencies we cannot, but their chemosensory “languages” are orders of magnitude more extensive and precise than our own.

Stephen F. Stringham, PhD
author of: When Bears Whisper, Do You Listen? and "The Language of Bears."
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