Do dogs talk? UTA researchers want to find out

NORTH TEXAS – Do dogs talk? If you have one, you would probably claim that your beloved companion speaks to you in a language that only you understand.

Now a researcher at UT Arlington is trying to prove this by studying the language of your furry friend.

Kenny Zhu, professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Arlington, is dedicated to deciphering the enigmatic language of man's best friend.

“People are fascinated by this subject,” Zhu said. “I always wondered if they had a language.”

Zhu is currently using machine learning to translate dog sounds into phonetic representations and ultimately into words.

By collecting sounds from different sources and filtering out other sounds, Zhu catalogues the sounds and segments them into parts like syllables, assigning each a symbol similar to our alphabet.

“This is all very early research,” he said. “There aren't many people doing this sort of thing.”

The project is supported by a three-year grant of $483,000.

Zhu said the answers couldn't be more important for future understanding and communication with all the animals we live with.

“It comes down to enabling better communication between different species, and ultimately we just want a better world,” he said.

So far, Zhu has transcribed about ten hours of barking into meaning and found that dogs in different parts of the world also “speak” differently.

He said this was just the beginning of discoveries to come.