Bees do it: bilingual bees teach humans a lesson

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jun 8 17:55:02 UTC 2008

On Sun, Jun 8, 2008 at 10:19 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Bees do it: bilingual bees teach humans a lesson
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.
> Joel
> 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_.

Now, there's a forlorn hope, if there ever was one! Don't we already
speak and learn to speak one another's languages?


>>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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