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Entropy 2009, 11(4), 688-701; doi:10.3390/e11040688

A Law of Word Meaning in Dolphin Whistle Types

1,*  and 2
1 TALP Research Center, Departament de Llenguatges i Sistemes Informatics, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Campus Nord, Edifici Omega, Jordi Girona Salgado 1-3, 08034 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain 2 Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 June 2009 / Accepted: 26 October 2009 / Published: 30 October 2009
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Information Theory Applied to Animal Communication)
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We show that dolphin whistle types tend to be used in specific behavioral contexts, which is consistent with the hypothesis that dolphin whistle have some sort of “meaning”. Besides, in some cases, it can be shown that the behavioral context in which a whistle tends to occur or not occur is shared by different individuals, which is consistent with the hypothesis that dolphins are communicating through whistles. Furthermore, we show that the number of behavioral contexts significantly associated with a certain whistle type tends to grow with the frequency of the whistle type, a pattern that is reminiscent of a law of word meanings stating, as a tendency, that the higher the frequency of a word, the higher its number of meanings. Our findings indicate that the presence of Zipf's law in dolphin whistle types cannot be explained with enough detail by a simplistic die rolling experiment.
Keywords: dolphin whistles; semantics; communication; laws of language; Zipf's law; quantitative linguistics dolphin whistles; semantics; communication; laws of language; Zipf's law; quantitative linguistics
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Ferrer-i-Cancho, R.; McCowan, B. A Law of Word Meaning in Dolphin Whistle Types. Entropy 2009, 11, 688-701.

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