Apes, men, and language [ePub]

by Eugene Linden

I read this book some thirty or forty years ago when the fact that Washoe had learnt 160 words in sign language, and was beginning to combine words into short phrase-like structures was an exciting experiment in progress. Could sign languages bridge the obvious vocalization barrier for champanzees? How would the chimpanzee´s vocabulary develop? Could it actually learn a language of sorts and would we get to see true inter-species language communication? Would Washoe eventually teach her own offspring to sign in Ameslan?

Unfortunately the language barrier was not broached and true interspecies communication remains a dream. The work with sign language was important in that it provided a more complex definition of language and indirectly spurred efforts to expand communication with other species, notably bonobos, dolphins, gorillas, orangutans and, much more recently dogs and parrots.

A brief and interesting update to the efforts at teaching great apes language can be found in the Wikipedia entry:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_ap...

03.09.2010

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