A recent Wondermark cartoon on what animals (in particular, cocker spaniels) hear, in the vein of the famous Far Side cartoon (with “blah-blah-blah Ginger”):
(Hat tip to Bruce Webster.)
The conceit seems to be that animals process “animal language” as analogue, with vast amounts of information encoded in continuous signals, while people process human language as digital, treating (smaller amounts of) information as discretized in chunks (the actual speech signal is continuous, of course).
I see now that neither Language Log nor this blog picked up the story from January about the border collie Chaser and her abilities to process human language. I saw it first in the NYT Science Times of January 18 (“Sit. Stay. Parse. Good Girl!” by Nicholas Wade, here), though it was widely covered in other science media.
Chaser is reported to know 1,022 words, all of them (in effect) proper names referring to specific objects, all of them taught by a laborious training process taking four to five hours a day over three years (an incredible commitment on the part of John W. Pilley, Chaser’s owner and trainer). “We are interested in teaching Chaser a receptive, rudimentary language”, said Pilley (more details and some critique in Wade’s article). Of course, if you follow the line of David Malki’s cartoon, this was like trying to teach Chaser to interpret beeping in German.