I remember some publications from the 1970ies dealing with the language of Dolphins. They were able to communicate via telefone lines without direct contact and their conversation was recorded.

At the date of (popular science) publications, there was not much decoded, only self-identifaction, like hello, this is Dash (one of the Dolphins).

What is the current understanding of the language of dolphins today?

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    This is one great topic, but the question seems to be very broad. Do you have any specific problem in mind? If not, the Wikipedia article is a great starting point. – bytebuster Dec 22 '17 at 1:57
  • communication != conversation – curiousdannii Dec 23 '17 at 0:30

I can't answer your question about current research, but here are a couple of older references. In 1986 a linguistics grad student, Esmé Hoban, at the University of Hawaii spent time observing experiments on dolphin-human communication experiments done at Lou Herman's Kewalo Basin lab. She did her dissertation on this and on broader concerns, The promise of animal language research. She thought the experiments that she observed had severe methodological problems. I was on her dissertation committee, and her chairman was Derek Bickerton, who himself wrote about the general topic in, among other books, Language and Species.

Derek also wrote a novel, King of the Sea, which speculates about what dolphin language would be like, if there were a dolphin language. (Derek also takes up the matter of human-dolphin sexual communication, in the novel.)

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I can't really give an answer, because I haven't read and digested the scientific literature on the topic, and I'm a linguist, not an animal behaviorist. There are some references: an article that makes strong claims (also additional references) to the effect that dolphins have language, indeed conversations; a skewering of that article – with additional references; an article that less ambitiously discusses some of the problems of even doing research in this area and a list of publications arising from that project, on dolphin communication.

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