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BonobosUnique in Mind, Brain, and Behavior$
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Brian Hare and Shinya Yamamoto

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198728511

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198728511.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 January 2022

What did we learn from the ape language studies?

What did we learn from the ape language studies?

(p.95) Chapter 7 What did we learn from the ape language studies?

Michael Tomasello

Oxford University Press

The ‘ape language’ studies have come and gone, with wildly divergent claims about what they have shown. Without question, the most sophisticated skills have been displayed by Kanzi, a male bonobo exposed from youth to a human-like communicative system. This chapter attempts to assess, in an objective a manner as possible, the nature of the communicative skills that Kanzi and other great apes acquired during the various ape language projects. The overall conclusion is that bonobos and other apes possess most of the requisite cognitive skills for something like a human language, including such things as basic symbol learning, categorization, sequential (statistical) learning, etc. What they lack are the skills and motivations of shared intentionality—such things as joint attention, perspective-taking and cooperative motives—for adjusting their communicative acts for others pragmatically, or for learning symbols whose main function is pragmatic. Il y a eu beaucoup d’études sur la langue des singes avec des résultats très divergents. Sans question, on a vu les compétences les plus avancées chez Kanzi, un bonobo mâle qui a été exposé dès la jeunesse à un système de communication humain. Ici j’essaye d’évaluer le plus objectivement possible l’origine des compétences de communication que Kanzi et d’autres Grands singes ont appris pendant les différents projets linguistiques. Je conclue que les bonobos et les autres grands singes possèdent la plupart des compétences cognitives nécessaires à un langage humain, inclut les bases d’apprentissage de symboles, catégorisation, apprentissage séquentiel statistique, etc. Ils manquent les compétences et motivations d’intentionnalité commune—comme attention commune, prendre une perspective différente, motifs coopératifs—pour qu’ils améliorent leurs actes communicatives pragmatiquement.

Keywords:   ape language, ape communication, bonobos, language evolution, symbols

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