Animal communication studies, and Ethology itself, deal with the analysis of behaviour in a way that can be understood as an analysis of signal sequences, mainly from a qualitative point of view. Thus, the main goal of behavioural analysis is to interpret the ‘semantic’ content of behavioural sequences and communicative signals. Considering these analyses as narratives to be interpreted, then hermeneutics, narrative schemas and structuralist techniques could be applied. Here, I propose that in fact when exploring and decoding animal behaviour sequences, we should use narrative analysis and biosemiotic techniques to interpret a type of information processing most effective in evolution, which could be called the analysis of ‘evolutionary stories’. Moreover, I think we do exactly that, but do not acknowledge it because is not considered ‘hard science’ (no maths involved). Nevertheless, this type of analysis seems to be the more flexible and appropriate way to interpret animal communication signals and systems, and also to interpret any general behavioural sequence, because it is mostly based on the cognitive capabilities of the involved species. This chapter will argue about the need for a re-evaluation of a cognitive and biosemiotic interpretation of behaviour and communication signals as central to biological behavioural analysis.
Part of the book: Cognitive and Intermedial Semiotics