Bees do it: bilingual bees teach humans a lesson

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Jun 8 14:19:42 UTC 2008

Centuries ago -- perhaps in the early 1950s -- I
believe there was an article in Scientific
American about crows.  European crows did not
understand the calls of American crows, or/and
vice versa.  Crows are pretty smart for
bird-brains, I would imagine smarter than
honeybees.  But I don't remember if the article
said they could learn each other's language.


At 6/8/2008 02:00 AM, Dennis Baron wrote:
>There's a new post on the Web of Language:
>Bees do it: bilingual bees teach humans a lesson
>Researchers mixing Asian and European honeybees have shown that the
>bees can learn one another’s language to cooperate in finding food and
>bringing it back to the hive.  In fact, according to the Telegraph,
>honeybees can pick up the new lingo even faster than humans.  Some
>think there’s a lesson in this for people as well as bees: if we could
>learn to speak each other’s languages like the bees do, perhaps we’d
>get along better, too.
>Scientists have known for a long time that honeybees communicate by
>wagging their bodies from side to side and moving at an angle to the
>sun, then looping back to do it all over again.  Nobel-prize winning
>zoologist Karl von Frisch first described the “waggle dance” that
>scout bees use to show other bees the distance and direction of a food
>source, which may be as far as 600 meters from the hive. The world’s
>nine different honeybee species use slightly different waggles ­
>analogous to different dialects among humans.
>Now a team of Chinese, German and Australian scientists who introduced
>two geographically distant honeybee species and their different
>dialects into the same hive has shown that after interacting for a
>while, the bees are able to bridge the language barrier as they go
>about the communal task of gathering food.
>While entomologists ­ scientists who study the insect world ­ see this
>as a breakthrough in the study of animal communication, etymologists ­
>scholars who study word derivations ­ have been more reserved in their
>reactions.  “This is not the Rosetta comb by any means,” sniffed the
>linguist Noam Chomsky.  “Maybe bees can dance ­ and that’s a big
>maybe," Chomsky added, "because Nureyev they are not ­ but only people
>can talk.”
>read the rest on the Web of Language
>Dennis Baron
>Professor of English and Linguistics
>Department of English
>University of Illinois
>608 S. Wright St.
>Urbana, IL 61801
>office: 217-244-0568
>fax: 217-333-4321
>read the Web of Language:
>The American Dialect Society -

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