You Guys Heard That?

If animals have language, do they hear voices?

Or, at what point does language and/or a brain become complex enough to make up imaginary voices?

Anyone interested in animal communication can see a list of Language Log posts dedicated to the subject. It comes up on Edmund Blair Bolles’ site, Babel’s Dawn, which is about the origins of speech. Stan Carey also sometimes talks about animal communication on his site, Sentence First. Here he discusses the linguistic capabilities of dogs. I don’t remember the idea of animals hearing voices ever being discussed on these sites and I don’t always read the comments. How would we even know if animals were hearing voices?

I’ve been interested in reading Daniel B. Smith’s book, Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Hearing Voices and the Borders of Sanity (Amazon), since I first heard about it. I guess now I have another reason in case it says anything about how central hearing voices is the the human mind. You can see an interview with him on the Colbert Report here.


Author: Joe McVeigh

I'm a linguist who researches email marketing. I also teach at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. I write about language and linguistics on my blog, ...And Read All Over, and I write about language and marketing on my other blog, Email and Linguistics.

4 thoughts on “You Guys Heard That?”

  1. Smith’s book is pretty good. Since you’re interested in the phenomenon of humans hearing voices, I’ll recommend Julian Jaynes’s work. It’s speculative but fascinating (and beautifully written).

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