Humans living in different parts of the world develop different languages; humans living in the same area speak the same language in order to be able to communicate with each other. We know that other animals too - at least some species - do communicate with each other, through sounds or movements or other means, although of course at a very basic level compared to us.

So I'm wondering, do animals of the same species but living in distant parts of the world communicate the same concepts (danger, attraction, threat etc.) using different sounds or movements etc. in different areas of the world ?

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because animals don't have language.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 24 '15 at 1:54
  • 7
    I'm voting to leave this question open because animal communication is often studied to determine what aspects of language are unique to humans and what aspects are not.
    – robert
    Jun 24 '15 at 8:18
  • @curiousdannii I'm new here so I don't know enough to tell whether my question is off-topic here and I'm sorry if it actually is, in which case please close it. However I disagree with the reason you gave, that "animals don't have language"; that sounds too hasty. Maybe it's more accurate to say that linguistics doesn't cover animal languages ? However according to the Wikipedia page "Animal language" , "Animal language are forms of non-human animal communication that show similarities to human language." Jun 24 '15 at 8:53
  • @SantiBailors Animals communicate and can use symbols, and those symbols may have systems which correspond to 'dialects', but symbology is not language.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 24 '15 at 9:39
  • Your title sounds like human beings are not animals
    – xji
    Jun 26 '15 at 9:00

This phenomenon has been studied a lot over the years. People do not refer to it as animal foreign languages but sometimes the word dialect is used. You will find plenty of descriptions in books on animal communication. Just be careful in your search because a lot of books with this title are about 'speaking' to animals. Most intros to linguistics also have a section on animal communication these days. Sometimes people also talk about zoosemiotics.

Localized dialects have been described for all kinds of species with some system of social communication from bees to apes. For example, there is plenty of literature on 'bird song' dialects.

The boundary of what is thought to be unique to human language as opposed to animal communication patterns is constantly shifting so you have to be careful both not to settle for old preconceptions but also not to fall for the latest flights of fancy.


There has definitely been a tremendous amount of study on different whale species and their songs. A Science Daily article from 2011 outlines the findings of some researchers regarding regional "codas".

Caribbean and Pacific whales have different repertoires of codas, like a regional dialect, but the "Five Regular" call -- a pattern of five evenly spaced clicks -- is thought to have the universal function of individual identity because it is used by sperm whales worldwide.

@Greg Lee's suggestion that dialects are the thing to research seems to be a good way to go for researching your question. Also, comparing animal "language primes" such as this universal identifier for sperm whales, vs. what other types of sounds may be localized (environment/region specific), could be a tactic as well.

Bees also are known for having dialects: dances which only their particular hives can understand. There is a Scientific American article with this title, but as you have to pay for it and I don't care to do so, I'm unsure its specific contents, but seems it could be useful.


Bird dialects within a species were reported in a Scientific American article I recall from a few years ago. Perhaps also dolphin dialects have been investigated. Google will probably get you some references.

  • Thanks. I had searched but I only found pages about how to say the animal sounds ("barking" etc.) in other languages. I had not thought of "animal dialect", I will try that and to find that Scientific American article. Jun 23 '15 at 18:33

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