I have this idea about how we perhaps could decode animal vocabularies that I would like to have some input on.
The idea is to design an experiment/challenge where we could predict roughly what has to be communicated between two individuals of a species in order to succeed with the challenge, for instance two dolphins.
An example could be a colored button that one dolphin has to push to give both dolphins a treat, but where only the other dolphin (the one that can't push it) gets to know which is the correct one. This should encourage them to communicate what to do and specifically what colored button to press. And by doing this kind of experiment several times we could perhaps extract what sounds represent for instance "red". And so on we could build up a basic vocabulary. What do you think about that? =)
The main idea is to in some way encourage two individuals to communicate something that we by design can infer from the outcome of the experiment. If first training one individual in solving a challenge and then letting it observe another individual that has no clue how to solve it, it should encourage it to communicate the solution, if it's sufficient intelligent that is.
Could it be done you think? I wish I had the resources to try this out myself but alas I don't. I'm all out of dolphins. I have asked a few researchers for input but they don't seem to think this is possible since no animal are intelligent enough and have any kind of language in the way we think about it. But personally I don't fully buy that. I still think a few animals would be possible subjects for a test like this, such as dolphins.