Dog words – or, How to think without language

Motamedi-Fraser, Mariam. 2019. Dog words – or, How to think without language. The Sociological Review, 67(2), pp. 374-390. ISSN 0038-0261 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper is situated in the context of debates about animals and language, and animal-human relations. It is also informed by the argument that words are neither the exclusive property of language (Motamedi Fraser 2015), nor the exclusive property of humans. The paper illustrates this point by exploring how some companion dogs make 'dog words' with their bodies and, further, how they are able/can be enabled to transform the meanings of these words by inventing and/or participating in word encounters. In the spirit of Lev Vygotsky, the paper argues that such encounters are a way of thinking with words in 'complexes.' Through a series of concrete examples, the paper shows how intimacy is integral to this thinking, in its every dimension. The ethically optimistic dimension of this analysis, however, simultaneously draws attention to how fragile are the relations between dogs, humans, and words, and how proximate intimacy is to 'other kinds of relations.' With this in mind, the paper addresses three 'other kinds of relations' that potentially limit animal-human 'talking' and thinking: scientific behaviourism, speciesism, and 'languagism.'

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Identification Number (DOI):


companion dogs, Vicki Hearne, word encounters, ethics, behaviourism, speciesism, languagism

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25 January 2019Accepted
28 February 2019Published Online
1 March 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

30 Jan 2019 11:39

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 15:32

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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