Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals Hardcover – 12 Dec 2012
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"[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.
Top customer reviews
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!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
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!
Stephen F. Stringham, PhD
author of: When Bears Whisper, Do You Listen? and "The Language of Bears."
The book includes a variety of examples of different animal species communicating. Especially noteworthy are Slobodchikoff's studies of prairie dogs, which Slobodchikoff demonstrates can announce, for example, the presence and degree of threat of different people, the color of their shirt, color of their hair, if they are wearing a hat, whether they are carrying a gun.... Slobodchikoff also describes the difficulty in decoding even these communications, and illustrates how limited human understanding of other animals is, and that in many cases we don't really even know what questions to ask or what to look for, or have the technology to look for and record it, in determining whether animals are communicating.
Being a life long animal lover, and frequent communicator with animals—how many of you have seen a depressed dog brighten at the mention of a walk (or even try to convince you to go on one), or have had your dog or cat announce to you they are hungry, or need to go out, or express their concern to you about a strange human or other animal, or simply express their deep love for you? (all scientifically unverifiable and suspect)—I find the state of scientific enquiry into the subject of animal communication at times frustrating and infantile. This isn't to fault Slobodchikoff. He is doing the tedious task of working within the accepted scientific framework to raise the conversation past denial to something beginning to approach a reality that many of us can readily observe with inherent faculties, which are apparently significantly more subtle and capable than scientific instruments and methods can currently offer.
So, the book is a combo of: an interesting proposal and discussion of the "Discourse System"; a variety of examples, some quite surprising, of animal communication in different species that have been well documented; descriptions of methods and challenges in documenting animal communication; and an illustration of qualities and characteristics humans have with other species. It is probably not a book for those looking for warm and fuzzy stories, nor for those looking for more subtle and humane (or perhaps "animane"?) realms of communication/cross species interaction as exemplified by the work of Anna Breytenbach.
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