That's completely incredible. Our great ape cousins are in many ways very intelligent in regards to tool use, ability to solve problems in better ways than trial and error, etc. But that non-human animals have such linguistic ability is unsupported, unless we're going to take children under two years of age.
Except that they then proceed to teach said ASL to other apes in their group. Either way, I said human child, by which I meant toddler (which is about the same vocabulary depth of an above-average chimp), so that is perfectly fine.
By no means do humans have a monopoly on intelligence, but they do seem to have one on language.
And then we get into dolphins...
My apologies for formatting. Pulled from PDF
Herman LM, Uyeyama, RK. 2008. Bottlenose dolphins understand relationships between concepts. BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES, 31(2):139
Example 4. As described in Herman (2002b) the four dolphins
were taught a gestural sign, tandem. When each of a pair of
dolphins was given the tandem sign followed by a sign for a
particular behavior, such as back dive, they joined together and
carried out that behavior in exquisitely close synchrony. Each
dolphin was also taught a sign create, which required it to
perform any behavior of its own choice. Then, when a pair was
given the two-item sequence tandem þ create, they joined
together and in close synchrony performed the same selfselected behavior. On a later formal test of Elele and Hiapo’s
responses to tandem þ create, 79 different highly synchronized
behaviors were recorded with 23 of them novel (i.e., they were
not under control of established gestures). The tandem
responses were very closely timed, and although careful video
analysis could detect some slight asynchrony in timing in some
cases, there was no consistent “leadership” by one dolphin or
the other. These results reveal close collaboration, as well as
the marrying of two abstract concepts, tandem, a social
collaboration, and create, a self-determined behavioral
innovation, into a higher-order abstract relationship. This
collaborative capability likely ﬁnds expression in the wild, for
example, in the ﬂuid ﬁrst-and second-order alliances formed in
collaborative efforts by male dolphins to secure female consorts
(Connor et al. 2000)
This is not at all easy to do. To reach a consensus about a routine of behavior, much of which is novel, plan it in sequence, and then execute it (and yes, there is a period prior to obeying this command that the dolphins swim around and communicate with eachother). This sort of thing requires something that we might call language. It does not have to be at all complex, but if they can understand a really basic language (and they can, apparently, http://www.lacus.org/volumes/34/102_herman_l.pdf http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jz3sQsTE5tA
), have a vast vocal repertoire which gets modified when communicating with other groups of dolphins (or even across species boundaries, which they do), and they use cultural transmission of information...what exactly are we to conclude from this?
Are we to conclude that the huge vocal repertoire, completely different from their echolocation clicks and contact/signature whistles is just noise? Are we to conclude that an animal capable of understanding things like word order, transitive reasoning, presence and absence, and the meaning of verbs sufficiently advanced to modify their environment to perform said verbs... is not capable of a language--even a basic one--of its own? I dont think so.
If you reach this conclusion, what data would you require to show that they do, in fact, have their own language and are capable of actually learning others, such as one we might teach to them? Do you want the language of the group of dolphins living off the Fl. Keys fully translated? We cannot even do that with some old human languages.