Bird sounds in nature writing: Human perspective on animal communication

Kadri Tüür

Abstract


The object of study in the present article is birds, more precisely the sounds of birds as they are represented in Estonian nature writing. The evolutionary and structural parallels of bird song with human language are reviewed. Human interpretation of bird sounds raises the question, whether it is possible to transmit or “translate” signals between the Umwelts of different species. The intentions of the sender of the signal may remain unknown, but the signification process within human Umwelt can still be traced and analysed. By approaching the excerpts of nature writing using semiotic methodology, I attempt to demonstrate how bird sounds can function as different types of signs, as outlined by Thomas A. Sebeok. It is argued that the zoosemiotic treatment of nature writing opens up a number of interesting perspectives that would otherwise remain beyond the scope of traditional literary analysis.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12697/SSS.2009.37.3-4.11





SIGN SYSTEMS STUDIES. ISSN 1406-4243 (print), 1736-7409 (online). E-mail: sss@ut.ee. Postal address: Sign Systems Studies, Dept. of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi St. 2, 51014 Tartu, Estonia