Lexicon Valley

Do Cats Have Language?

Animals bark, sing, purr, and even gesture—all fascinating but a far cry from human communication.

Illustration depicting a female with a microphone

Listen longer

Slate Plus members get ad-free versions of all Slate podcasts, plus extra segments, bonus episodes, and more. Try it today for just $1.

Join Slate Plus

Episode Notes

Dogs can be taught to distinguish between hundreds of basic words—which comes in handy if you need someone to fetch the blue, round object. Gorillas, meanwhile, can learn a vocabulary of hand signs. But those examples, says John McWhorter, should not be taken as evidence that animals have a capacity for language.

Podcast production by Mike Vuolo.


About the Show

If you’ve ever had curious thoughts and questions about the ways we speak, read, and write, Lexicon Valley is the show for you. Hosted by linguist John McWhorter.

All episodes