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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/546

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

NEW OBSERVATIONS ON THE LANGUAGE OF ANIMALS.
By M. De LACAZE DUTHIERS,

OF THE INSTITUTE OF FRANCE.

I HAD occasion, in a note published several years ago in the Revue Scientifique, to mention a parroquet which I have since continued to observe, the manifestations of whose intelligence are both interesting and instructive. Many acts of birds are difficult of interpretation. To speak only of their songs, the meanings of most of the innumerable varieties of sounds which they produce, and of their diverse warblings, escape us completely. It is not possible to find the meaning of these things except by forming suppositions and hypotheses, or by catching the connections between cries and acts. But instances of the latter kind are extremely rare in comparison with the great majority of the manifestations made by animals.

Thus, to select examples which every one can observe, when a canary-bird is warbling in its cage and becomes deafening, or when a lark rises straight up in the air and incantat suum tirile tirile—sings its tirile tirile—as Linnæus picturesquely expresses it; when a tomtit, leaping from branch to branch of a willow or among the reeds, repeats its florid warblings; when a raven croaks; when a blackbird whistles—what significance can we attach to their songs and their cries? Certainty is impossible, and we can only form more or less plausible hypotheses concerning the interpretation of them.

The parrot furnishes us one more aid in this matter than other birds, and this helps us, to a certain extent, in overcoming the difficulty of interpretation. It has an articulate voice, and when we have taught it a few words, the meaning which it gives them may be better divined by us according to the tone and the rapidity or slowness of its utterance. This permits us to discover the feelings that move it, for we can better judge from an articulate sound than from one that is merely musical.

Much has been written on the language of animals. It is neither my desire nor my intention to repeat here all that may have been said on this subject. It would take too long and would be of no use. I have often witnessed facts that may be of interest to those who are occupied with the mental manifestations of animals. I will simply relate them; and of such as are already known, I will merely mention them anew, admitting in advance a priority for others which I do not demand for myself.

There can be no doubt that animals communicate their impres-