La Lengua

Dura lex, sed lex

9/07/2003

Prevaricando

En lingüística, se entiende por prevaricación la capacidad de emitir un mensaje a sabiendas de que su significado es engañoso. Dicho en román paladino, prevaricar, lingüísticamente hablando, significa "mentir". Estoy seguro de que todos captamos la idea, e incluso de que la hemos llevado a la práctica alguna vez.

Los lingüistas consideran la prevaricación como una de las diferencias más importantes entre la comunicación animal y el lenguaje humano. Ejemplo: cuando un perro ladra al oír un sonido extraño en la casa donde vive su dueño, puede querer decir "te he oído, no sé quién eres, y estoy dispuesto a defender esta casa a dentelladas". Si el perro supiese el origen del sonido, y que éste no es motivo de preocupación, no puede ladrar de esa forma, ni siquiera para gastar una broma a alguien; si se inquieta por el sonido pero es un perro cobarde, es decir, si no está dispuesto a luchar, no ladrará de forma amenazante. Esto se debe a que los ladridos del perro son o bien instintivos, o bien condicionados, o sea, no los controla de forma consciente. Algo parecido ocurre con el cambio de plumaje de algunas aves durante la época de celo, que significa "soy un adulto dispuesto a procrear". Si el animal no está en condiciones, por ejemplo por ser aún inmaduro sexualmente, su plumaje no se volverá más vistoso. Tampoco pueden cambiar los adultos sus plumas fuera de la época de celo, al menos como mensaje hacia los miembros de su especie de sexo opuesto.

Conclusión científica: los animales no pueden prevaricar cuando se comunican entre sí o con otras especies.

¿O sí?

Hay una especie de pez en las profundidades marinas que imita con un apéndice que sale de su cabeza la forma y el movimiento de un pequeño gusano. Cuando otro pez se acerca para comerse ese "gusano", nuestro pez lo devora. Una especie de inofensiva mosca imita con el color de su abdomen el diseño de las avispas, en un claro mensaje para los sapos y otros depredadores de que no es conveniente meterse con ella. El insecto palo, el insecto hoja, y muchos otros imitan con su cuerpo un insípido vegetal que no es tan nutritivo como ellos. Los gatos. Los gatos, cuando se sienten amenazados, arquean su cuerpo, erizan su pelo y se colocan de lado, para que parezca que su tamaño es superior y asustar al posible enemigo.

Desde luego que todos los ejemplos comentados son fruto de la evolución de las especies, y que los comportamientos descritos son también instintivos; el gato que arquea el lomo no sabe que está engañando al perro, probablemente ni siquiera sea consciente de estar emitiendo un mensaje. Pero aun así, quizás habría que revisar la teoría de la prevaricación desde otro ángulo, aunque las conclusiones sean análogas.

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