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Whale song

A discussion of the peculiarities of languages and the differences between them.

Whale song

Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Feb 20, 2005 9:45 am

I'm not entirely sure that Professor Chomsky (for whom, unlike Anders, I have the greatest respect, both as a linguist and a public intellectual) would consider the vocalisations produced by these animals as «language» - if that, they are also much more - but I do hope that we can allow these magnificent creatures to live and provide us with objects of study, rather than appetisers....

Henri

Whales 'guided by their singing'

David Smith
Sunday February 20, 2005

Observer


Whales sing to each other across thousands of miles of ocean and use sound to create their own mental 'A to Z' of the sea floor, scientists revealed yesterday.
Christopher Clark, from Cornell University in New York, had been listening to whale songs for nine years when he realised he had been thinking about the giant creatures in the wrong time scale.

'There is a time delay in the water, and the response times for their communication are not the same as ours,' he said. 'Suddenly you realise that their behaviour is defined not by my scale, or any other whale researcher's scale, but by a whale's sense of scale - ocean-basin sized.'

Clark has been using a network of ex-Cold War US Navy underwater microphones to listen to whales. Whereas the Sound Surveillance System once followed Soviet Union submarines in the North Atlantic, it is now being used to track blue, fin, humpback and minke whales.

Week-long soundings at the US Navy's Joint Maritime Facility at St Mawgan in Cornwall yielded thousands of acoustical tracks of different species of singing whales. 'We now have evidence that they are communicating with each other over thousands of miles of ocean,' Clark said. 'Singing is part of their social system and community.'

Clark has tracked cohorts of humpback whales hundreds of miles apart moving together and watched the collective migration of species across expanses of ocean. His findings were presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC yesterday.

The songs showed that whales use echo-location to navigate and can recognise ocean floor features such as mountains.

'Whales will aim directly at a sea mount that is 300 miles away then, once they reach it, change course,' Clark added. 'They must have acoustic memories analogous to our visual memories.'

david.smith@observer.co.uk
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Postby Flaminius » Sun Feb 20, 2005 10:42 am

Why Henri, I am sure whales can furnish research objects as well as delicious cutlets, though I accept a few things are yet to be know in order to ecologically control the number of whales.
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Feb 20, 2005 11:15 am

I, too have eaten 鯨肉の南蛮漬け - and 犬 as well - and found both delicious, but while the risk that the latter species (at least in its domestic form) will become extinct is minimal, the risk that the great whales will, not merely because of hunting, but also because of the pollution (including sonar pollution) of their environment is not. Somehow, I should be more optimistic concerning our own (H sap sap's) survival if we could all agree to preserve our neighbours and cousins....

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby Flaminius » Sun Feb 20, 2005 11:43 am

Rats, crows and ostriches would make good cousins and neighbours of ours considering their rapaciousness being similar to ours. Rhetorics aside, great whales (or whatever species we are talking about, like 犬, dogs) are natural resources. The decision as to if we could use them should solely be based on scientific principles.

It is wise for the time being not to restart commercial whaling as scientific opinions are far more various than the greenhouse effect of human CO2 emission. But being a great species has no relationship to our decision if we can kill them or not.
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Feb 20, 2005 12:27 pm

Flam, from a scientific standpoint, the size of the great whales is relevant only as regards its effects on their reproduction cycles and risk of extinction. But science can't really tell us why we should care about whether these particular neighbours and cousins of ours go extinct or not - even though it (psychology) may offer cautionary tales to the effect that our attitudes to these animals may translate into our attitudes towards ouselves (and after all, we are rather practised in the fine art of dispatching members of our own species, as a glance 'round the world makes abundantly clear). The great love that the females of various mosquito spp seem to bear me is entirely unrequited, and I slap at them with great vigour (something which amazed some Indian friends to whose home I was invited while touring that country some 30 years ago - they regarded such actions as both futile (too many mosquitoes) and morally suspect (the taking of life). But ever since reading 芥川龍之介著 の «蜘蛛の糸», I have been solicituous of the welfare of spiders. (The text, by the way, of this wonderful work is available on this site....)

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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????

Postby KatyBr » Sun Feb 20, 2005 1:06 pm

hmmm, so it's only one's 'pet' ecological dangers one objects to? If one's country disagrees with accepted ecological disasters, they are 'unproved', but one can indict others, one's country disagrees with.
I'm reminded of the expression sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Oh please it smells of hypocracy in here,
Katy
spotted owl is quite the delicacy, it tastes much like bald eagle! :shock: :roll: 8)
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Re: ????

Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Feb 20, 2005 1:41 pm

KatyBr wrote:hmmm, so it's only one's 'pet' ecological dangers one objects to? If one's country disagrees with accepted ecological disasters, they are 'unproved', but one can indict others, one's country disagrees with.
I'm reminded of the expression sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Indeed it is - which is why these matters must be dealt with in international fora, so that burdens - changing life styles is a burden - can be shared among those who can afford to bear them. Opting out, pardon the pun, is not an option, unless the party doing so has another planet to which to remove....

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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another planet?

Postby KatyBr » Sun Feb 20, 2005 1:43 pm

ah Henri, so mayhaps we are from differrent planets? Our mindsets couldn't be more different.

Katy
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Re: another planet?

Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Feb 20, 2005 2:03 pm

KatyBr wrote:... Our mindsets couldn't be more different.

You certainly are right in that, Katy, although sometimes I suspect that in some mysterious way, we are more alike than either of us would care to admit. But be that as it may, the meeting of widely divergent mindsets, if civilised discourse can be maintained, is perhaps one of the more important raisons d'être of fora like these....

Henri

PS : They may be my «pets» - although I certainly shouldn't want one on my lap - but I think I'm not the only one who will find Mary Jordan's article in today's Washington Post on the return of the gentle giants of the sea heartening (Flam, of course, will think of whale beef)....
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby anders » Mon Feb 21, 2005 4:42 pm

I had to wait before posting here. When my Irish Setter died because of an incurable blood disease, I couldn't discuss it with people without bursting into tears. It is difficult enough today, some six years later. Dogs are no less human than humans.

So, leaving the dog aspects aside, I found it interesting that Chinese whales are written whith the "fish" radical. Fortunately, I don't believe in any deeper "meaning" of "coincidences". The night before reading the whale posts, I happened to dig into Chinese words using the "jing" phonetic, and came across the 鯨. I strongly believe in letting fish remain in their sea, so I didn't look up what kind of "fish" the character referred to. And here it is! In Chinese, the whale 鯨 is procounced exactly like for example "sacred book", 经, namely jing1. As always, the relation to the Japanese whale 鯨 GEI or kujira (I just don't know what's more common) or 經 KEI, KYO etc. etc. (traditional form of 经), 'sutra, warp (in weaving), menstruation, etc.' is obscure to us amateurs.

Had I been 1/3 of my present age, I might have been into the fascinating East Asian linguistics for the rest of my life, disregarding the financial outcome. (Hey, wait, ain't I now?)
Irren ist männlich
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gentle pets

Postby KatyBr » Mon Feb 21, 2005 6:03 pm

Henri said
Katy, although sometimes I suspect that in some mysterious way, we are more alike than either of us would care to admit.

I'd never flatter myself thus. While I often vehemantly disagree wth just about everything you say my respect for you is much higher than any of my posts have so far indicated

Anders your discourse on the Chinese words is fascinating. was there a point you were making that I'm just too dumb to get?


The article of whale song was so captivating I find myself rereading it. I especially liked the idea of them having acoustic memories equivalent to our visual ones.

Since Human beings are actually part of the order of things on this planet, our contribution to the sounds in the ocean can be adjusted to. Right???
And if we add to the'pollution' of sound in the ocean, wouldn't that presuppose there is 'other' pollution there, what polution would that be?

Katy
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Re: gentle pets

Postby anders » Mon Feb 21, 2005 6:27 pm

KatyBr wrote:Anders your discourse on the Chinese words is fascinating. was there a point you were making that I'm just too dumb to get?

Just having arrived at home after three hours of Chinese lecture when I wrote, I'm afraid that my post isn't too interesting to people who know little or nothing of that language. I do try, however, to tell others what I'm getting at. My main point can, however, be expanded to tell you that I might have been less distressed if my then fiancée, who legally owned 50% of the dog, had died.
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Postby KatyBr » Mon Feb 21, 2005 6:30 pm

oh,
:)

Katy
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Postby Flaminius » Mon Feb 21, 2005 11:19 pm

Whether they are called kujira or whales, some people enjoy whales on board a cruiser and others at dinner table and still others on both. I have been receiving confused information about the survival likelyhood of the cetacean: ranging from that they are still on the barge of extinction to that they have been so multiplied as to become a formidable competitors to the fishing industry.

I do not exclude that the most optimistic arguments about their survival may be disinformation by the pressure groups that want to resurrect whaling. I don't pretend to be a marine scientist. Let them worry.

But I sense morality creeping into the whole argument here. This troubles me. If (and only if) an animal species scientifically is proven to have robust likelyhood of survival, then it should be up to individual cultures how to utilise them. Although "What you eat is what your moral is," is OK at individual or cultural level, I don't like to see dietary morals imposed at international level.

BTW, I think homonyms to 鯨 (at least back in the 5 Century CBE) include 景 and 京. Both are quite illustrious characters, are they anders?
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Postby anders » Thu Feb 24, 2005 7:17 pm

Flaminius wrote:BTW, I think homonyms to 鯨 (at least back in the 5 Century CBE) include 景 and 京. Both are quite illustrious characters, are they anders?

I spent a number of hours on jing and related phonetics last week. I noted the "fish", but I am not interested enough in that species to find out which one. And here it emerged as the whale!

The whale and the capital are both tone 1, scenery is 3. Added the evidence of KEI, GEI and KEI, they should have been very similar for ages. Karlgren has klyang (short a) for the three of them, later losing the "l" and finally kiang for all.

Add three strokes to the scenery, and you get a Chinese shadow (ying3): 影. The first movies 电影, electric shadows, must have been blurred, and the reflected images 映 画 of Japanese movies better.
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