BonniDune Kennel is located in
Southern Indiana, USA. Although I started
with German Shepherd Dogs, today BonniDune is
dedicated to showing, trialing and producing
sound, versatile Border Collies.
BonniDune is proud to be recognized as an AKC Breeder of Merit.

Puppies Born December 25, 2013

What A Border Collie Taught A Linguist About Language


Language is a fascinating aspect of human communication, but what can we learn about it from our four-legged friends? In a surprising turn of events, a linguist discovered valuable insights about language while training his Border Collie. This article explores the connection between a linguist and his canine companion, shedding light on the intricate nature of language.

The Linguist and His Border Collie

Dr. John Stevens, a renowned linguist, had always been captivated by the complexities of language. As an academic, he spent years studying various languages and their structures. However, it was during his time with his Border Collie, Max, that he stumbled upon a revelation that would forever change his perspective on language.

Observation and Communication

While training Max, Dr. Stevens noticed the remarkable ability of the Border Collie to understand and respond to his commands. It became evident that Max comprehended not only the words but also the intonation and body language associated with the commands.

This observation led Dr. Stevens to question the fundamental aspects of language. He realized that language encompasses more than just words; it involves the context, gestures, and tone of voice used during communication. This discovery challenged the traditional linguistic theories he had studied throughout his career.

Language as a Multimodal System

Building upon his newfound insights, Dr. Stevens began exploring the idea of language as a multimodal system. He started investigating the role of non-verbal communication in human language, drawing parallels to the cues he observed in Max’s responses to his commands.

Non-Verbal Cues

Dr. Stevens discovered that non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and intonation play a crucial role in conveying meaning. These cues can often shape the interpretation of words or phrases, adding layers of complexity to the communication process.

Just as Max responded differently based on the tone and body language accompanying a command, humans also interpret language holistically, considering both verbal and non-verbal cues. This realization challenged the traditional view of language as solely a system of words and grammar.

Implications for Linguistics

Dr. Stevens’ findings have significant implications for the field of linguistics. They question the traditional emphasis on syntax and grammar as the sole determinants of meaning. Instead, the multimodal approach suggests that language is a dynamic and interactive process that involves various modes of communication.

Language Acquisition and Teaching

Understanding the multimodal nature of language has important implications for language acquisition and teaching. Dr. Stevens argues that educators should incorporate non-verbal cues and context in language learning environments to enhance comprehension and communication skills.


The unexpected lessons learned from a Border Collie named Max have forever altered the way Dr. Stevens perceives language. His observations of Max’s ability to comprehend and respond to commands highlighted the importance of non-verbal cues in language communication. This newfound understanding has the potential to revolutionize linguistic theories and improve language teaching and acquisition methods.

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