Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0929-7332
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9919



What is language and who or what can be said to have it? In this essay we consider this question in the context of interactions with non-humans, specifically: animals and computers. While perhaps an odd pairing at first glance, here we argue that these domains can offer contrasting perspectives through which we can explore and reimagine language. The interactions between humans and animals, as well as between humans and computers, reveal both the essence and the boundaries of language: from examining the role of sequence and contingency in human-animal interaction, to unravelling the challenges of natural interactions with “smart” speakers and language models. By bringing together disparate fields around foundational questions, we push the boundaries of linguistic inquiry and uncover new insights into what language is and how it functions in diverse non-human-exclusive contexts.

Available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

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