[lit-ideas] Re: Feline Implicature

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 1 Jul 2011 05:32:00 EDT

Grice, who lived in Berkeley, owned three cats: Sausalito, Oakland, and  
"Cat communication", wiki tells us, "is the range of methods by which cats  
communicate with other cats, humans, and other animals."
Of course, Grice spoke of 'pirots'. These were his rewrite of 'parots'. A  
'talking pirot' is a pirot which communicates with another pirot. So
is the obvious, natural, way to analyse natural expressions of intentions,  
"Communication methods", the wiki notes, "include postures, movement  
(including "quick, fine" movements not generally perceived by human beings), 
auditory and chemical signals. The communication methods used by cats have 
been  affected by the domestication process."
--- for which 'humanisation' may be a better term.

"Cats vocalize with purrs, growls, hissing and meows."
Griceian definition of 'a meow':

"A meow is an expression utterered on occasion by a cat 
to signal a request to their mother."
An adult cat will not meow to each other.
-- it belongs to 'developmental pragmatics', then.
Griceian definition of "a purr"
"A purr is an expression uttered made by most species of felids, and  not 
just felis domesticus." 
"A tonal buzzing can characterize differently between cats."
"Domestic cats purr in a frequency of 25-150 vibrations/second."
"Purring is often understood as signifying happiness".
Vide, Grice, "The Aristotelian theory of happiness -- applies to  cats?"
"However, cats sometimes purr when they are ill, or during tense,  
traumatic, or painful moments."
Geary proposes to qualify the idea of happiness here ("Humans happy? Pigs  
are happy!" -- "Happy-cat is still a different 'animal', or a 'horse of a  
different colour').
"There is no unique anatomical feature that is clearly responsible for the  
expression of a purr, which thus becomes a multi-modal Griceian  

"A cat hisses and arches its back". A natural expression of her wanting  
"to make herself appear larger" -- A natural expression of her wanting "to  
ward off a threat".

A cat kneads a blanket before a nap. The  forward position of the whiskers 
"indicates" either happiness or curiosity (or  both).

A cats growls or hisses when angered or feeling threatened, which  serves 
as a warning to the offending party."
The Griceian mechanism involves three stages:
1. the cat's intention to display her feeling.
2. the Griceian mechanism: the display is effective on account only of the  
recipient of the signal
---- to identify the source of the feeling as being 'intentional'.
3. no 'sneaky' (prevarication) elements involved -- [* as in types of  
plover where the point is to _mislead_ the addressee]
If the cat-utterer's warning is not heeded, a more serious attack may  
"A cat may engage in behaviour or batting with their paws, with claws  
either extended or retracted."
"When observing, or stalking, prety, a cat sometimes makes a chirping or  
chattering noise." -- This requires a Griceian explanation ("It can't be to 
warn  the prey. It may well be unevolutionary and unintentional).
The cry of a cat in sexual heat is called a caterwaul -- but not by the cat 

A cat communicates a variety of messages or expressions using body  
In fact, proxemics is all there is, since all there is to a cat is her  
body. So that all expressions on the cat's part are 'bodily' in this  respect.
Examples of typical proxemics include arching the back as a signal of fear  
or aggression.
Also, slowly blinking to signal relaxation. 
A cat that chooses to lie with its stomach and chest exposed conveys trust, 
 and comfort.
However, a cat may also roll on its side or back to be able to defend  
itself with all four sets of claws. 
Usually other signs (or 'utterances', in Grice's narrow use of the  
expression) (like ears and whiskers folded backwards) give an indication of the 
cat's overall humour. 
Flattened ears mean that the cat feels threatened, and may attack. Here we  
see Grice's distinction, 'exhibitive' ("I feel threaten") and 'protreptic' 
("I  may attack") rolled into one.
Mouth open and no teeth exposed suggests a feeling of playfulness.

The tail, as well is often used as a signaling mechanism. ("Not in the  
Manx cat, which lacks it" -- Geary notes, "Feline implications and 
implicatures"  -- "The lack of a tail in a Manx cat _implicates_ *silence*").
A tail held high suggests confidence, or can be used as a greeting towards  
other cats -- usually close 'relatives' only. 
A half-raised tail, on the other hand, shows less pleasure.
Unhappiness (in this 'feline' Aristotelian variant) is indicated with a  
tail held low. 
In addition, a cat's tail may "wag" or move rapidly to express a state of  
conflict. This confused Alice ("A dog wags his tail for reasons different 
than a  cat's; a cat groans for reasons different than a dog").
"Avoid ambiguity":

A cat with tail held high and twitching shows excitement, but this is often 
 totally mistaken for anger. 
(Against Helm, I would blame the interpreter here, never the  utterer).
A cat will twitch the tips of their tails when hunting or when irritated,  
while larger twitching indicates displeasure. 
A cat may also twitch her tail when playing.
A scared (or surprised) cat may puff up its tail, and the hair along its  
back may stand straight up and the cat will turn its body sideways to a 
threat,  in order to increase its apparent size. 
Tailless cats, such as the Manx, as we were saying, which possess only a  
small stub of a tail, move the stub around as though they possess a full 
tail.  ("A tail ends up being 'implicated' only, since it has been _cancelled_" 
--  Geary).

Touching noses is a friendly greeting for cats.
A lowered head is a sign of submission. 
Some cats will rub their faces along their guardian's cheek, hands, or  
While this is interpreted, wrongly, by the Homo Sapiens as a  friendly 
greeting or sign of affection, the 'expression' displays 'natural'  "meaning" 
only, as the cat's only way of "marking her territory", leaving a  scent from 
the scent glands located in the cat's cheeks. 
More commonly, cats do something called a "head bonk", or "bunting", where  
they literally bump someone with the front part of their heads to express 
some  sort of affection.

Cats also lick each other. 
Cats lick each other to groom one other and to bond. This grooming is  
usually done between cats that know each other very well (in the usage that 
 apply to 'very well').
A cat may paw a soft object on which they may be sitting, with a kneading  
motion.  A cat uses this action alongside purring to show  contentment.
But it can also indicate curiosity. 
A cat may also do this when in pain or dying, as a method of comforting  
itself. (the chapter of a 'cat in pain' is Wittgenstein's territory).
It is *instinctive* to cats -- where 'instinctive' is a Griceian neologism, 
Cats use it when they are young to stimulate the mother cat's breast  to 
release milk during nursing (Consequently, cats hand-raised by human  beings 
do not exhibit this behaviour.)
Pawing is also a way for cats to mark their territory. 
The scent glands on the underside of their paws release small amounts of  
scent onto the object being pawed, marking it as "theirs" the same way they  
urinate ('pee', in the vernacular) to mark their territory. 
Since the nature of the activity is, again, an "instinctive" (not  
implicatural) response related to the mother's care for the kitten, it may be 
expression of need, indicating the need for some attention from the  caregiver.

Although a gentle bite can signify playfulness, bites that are  accompanied 
by hissing or growling do not "signify" playful behavior (where  'signify' 
is Latinate for Grice's "mean").

When cats mate, the male tom bites the scruff of the female's neck as she  
assumes a position conducive to mating.

Cats can also communicate (or 'mean' this or that, even via  implicature) 
through scent via urine ('pee'), feces ('number  two'), and chemicals in skin 
glands located around the mouth, tail, and  paws. 
Cats also use scent in order to mark their territory. 
If another animal (e.g. Geary) tries to get in the cat's  territory, she 
will fight for the territory, or the cat will scare the  animal (e.g. Geary) 
Urine spraying is also a territorial marking. It is not 'meant' as "rude",  
necessarily, but adapted evolutionarily.
Cats rub up against stuff to mark the items as "theirs". 
When cats rub a speciment of Homo Sapiens (who shares lodging with them),  
they are marking them with their scent, and picking up the people's scents  
('what have you been up to?').


Dennis C. Turner, Paul Patrick Gordon Bateson, Patrick Bateson, The  
domestic cat: the biology of its behaviour, Cambridge University Press
"Why and how do cats purr?". Library of Congress. 
(http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/catspurr.html) . 

Helgren, J. Anne (1999). Communicating with Your Cat. Barron's  Educational 

"Cat Behavior Tips," Lifetips.com

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