Which animals can speak and why

Language of animals

Communication with the help of sounds

For humans, the voice is the epitome of language. Animals also often use sounds to communicate, for example as a sign of identification when mating, to defend their territory or for orientation. For this reason, the stag roars during the rutting season and the frog croaks in the garden pond.

The birds are true masters when it comes to tonal language. The males in particular are true singing virtuosos. Some birds, including many species of ravens, can also mimic the voices of other animals and humans. Sounds are an integral part of the animal kingdom.

Facial expressions and gestures in the animal kingdom

Even more important than communication with the help of sounds are the messages that animals make through facial and gestural signals. Facial expressions play a role as well as posture.

A wolf bares its teeth when it is aggressive. He sets up the fur in order to look more impressive and to impress his fellow species.

On the other hand, when a wolf wants to demonstrate submissiveness, it makes itself small and retracts its tail. Similar to humans, the animals' facial expressions are primarily used to communicate over short distances, while the gestures can also be made out from a distance.

Chemical signals and other peculiarities

In addition to sounds, facial expressions and gestures, the animals have a large repertoire of other means of communication at their disposal. Chemical signals are a clever way of communicating.

To show their conspecifics the way to a source of food, ants place a scent trail between the nest and the target area, which the other animals can then follow.

Another type of communication is the dance of the bees. It also serves to guide conspecifics to food. This is no surprise, because the various signals the animals send are necessary above all to win the fight for survival and to preserve their own species.

Talking via sound waves

Some of what animals utter are neither audible nor visible to humans. An example of this are infrasound sounds. The human ear cannot perceive the sound waves of these frequencies.

The sounds of elephants calling for partners during the mating season or the underwater chants of humpback whales are usually hidden from us. Only with the help of special technology can these sounds be made audible for humans.

Communication between humans and animals

Some animals not only understand each other and speak to other animals, they also partially understand human language. Dogs can understand different amounts of words depending on their breed. Each animal manages around 50, some even a few hundred.

Monkeys also understand human language. This is shown, among other things, by experiments with orangutans. They can learn to communicate with people using sign language or a computer touch screen. However, they cannot really speak. They are anatomically unable to do this.