Ostensive intentional communication in nonhuman animals

Sievers , Christine . Ostensive intentional communication in nonhuman animals. 2017, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.


Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/79192/

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By interacting with each other communicatively humans constantly engage in so-called intentional communication. Intentional communication means to engage in meaningful communication, i.e. communicating meaningful messages to others by communicating goals, information etc. with the help of signals that carry meaning themselves.
Humans engage in such intentional communication openly, that is we do not just use language to transmit a message, but we also address each other directly by employing eye-contact and other so-called ostensive signals to emphasize our motivation to communicate something to a specific audience. Human communicators are not just naturally good at displaying this back-and-forth interactions, but they are also very efficient in doing so. One reason for this efficiency is our conventionalized communication system: human language. Using a word with a fixed meaning in a sentence to deliver a certain message then is easing the workload of signalers and recipients grasping each other’s intentions directly or indirectly, and makes communication indeed more efficient. Given this, intentional communication appears at least at first glance to be uniquely human.
But is it uniquely human indeed? What about the communicative interactions of nonhuman animals? They clearly do not have a conventional language system. But can they influence each other’s mental state in a communicative situation and do they intend to do so? If yes, by what means? In this dissertation, I aim to provide a framework, that is a set of criteria derived from theoretical and empirical research on human and nonhuman communication, which is aimed at picking out a sophisticated, human-like kind of intentional communication: a kind of intentional communication that is cognitively related human communication, and in particular to ostension. The criteria will be based, first on the central idea of flexibility to be perceivable within a communicative interaction, both in recipients and signalers. Secondly, ostensive signals, it will be argued, function even in human communication as attention-getters and -directors, and do not require higher level cognition.
Advisors:Wild, Markus and Zuberbühler, Klaus
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Künste, Medien, Philosophie > Fachbereich Philosophie > Theoretische Philosophie (Wild)
UniBasel Contributors:Wild, Markus
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:14028
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:iii, 263
Identification Number:
  • urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-bau-diss140283
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:12 Mar 2021 05:30
Deposited On:11 Mar 2021 08:17

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