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'Meow' isn't language, but enough to manage humans

essing themselves very well. The first individuals to be accepted for domestication must have been exceptional, but of course that's the point from which things start to evolve."

Having said that, Nicastro turns off the lights in his Cornell office and heads home, where urgent calls for the can opener await. "They're not little people," he observes, "and they're not using true language because, among other reasons, cats do not know the meaning of their own meows. Humans (or at least well-trained cat people) can assign meaning to sounds with various acoustical qualities because, through long association with cats, we have learned how they sound in different behavioral contexts.

"Cats are domesticated animals that have learned what levers to push, what sounds to make to manage our emotions," Nicastro says. "And when we respond, we too are domesticated animals."

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Contact: Roger Segelken
hrs2@cornell.edu
607-255-9736
Cornell University News Service
20-May-2002


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