In the 1967 musical version of the 'Dr Dolittle' story, Doctor John Dolittle is able to converse freely with a wide range of creatures.

So what is the source of Dr Dolittle's ability to grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals? Is it genetic, magical, learned or something else?

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    For those tempted to close as a dupe, please note that a similar question (movies.stackexchange.com/questions/50461/…) is specifically about the 1998 Eddie Murphy film series, not the splendid 1967 Rex Harrison musical film. – user7812 Mar 19 '16 at 22:58
  • @NapoleonWilson - You'll note my restraint in not referring to it as the execrable 1998 Eddie Murphy film series – user7812 Mar 19 '16 at 23:53
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    I don't think the date for the tag is necessary. The films have different titles. A tag wiki should be sufficient. – Catija Mar 20 '16 at 2:17

In the very first Doctor Dolittle book, 'The Story of Doctor Dolittle', the titular doctor is taught to speak the "language of the animals" by his pet parrot, Polynesia

"What would have been the good?" said Polynesia, dusting some cracker–crumbs off her left wing. "You wouldn't have understood me if I had."

"Tell me some more," said the Doctor, all excited; and he rushed over to the dresser–drawer and came back with the butcher's book and a pencil. "Now don't go too fast—and I'll write it down. This is interesting—very interesting—something quite new. Give me the Birds' A.B.C. first—slowly now."

So that was the way the Doctor came to know that animals had a language of their own and could talk to one another. And all that afternoon, while it was raining, Polynesia sat on the kitchen table giving him bird words to put down in the book.

In the 1967 film version the genesis is extremely quite similar. The good Doctor is well aware that animals have language and is studying a wide range of animal languages (notably halibut and goldfish) but is quite surprised to find that animals have also been studying human languages and that parrots are quite capable of speaking human. His parrot then takes it upon itself to teach him to speak properly.

Dolittle: Animals actually talk to one another?!

Parrot: But of course we can

Dolittle: I knew parrots could talk

Parrot: Parrots are the finest linguists in the animal kingdom

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