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ERIC Number: ED119495
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1975-Aug-30
Pages: 27
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
The Evolutionary Significance of Pongid Sign Language Acquisition.
Hewes, Gordon W.
Experiments in teaching language or language-like behavior to chimpanzees and other primates may bear on the problem of the origin of language. Evidence appears to support the theory that man's first language was gestural. Recent pongid language experiments suggest: (1) a capacity for language is not solely human and therefore does not represent the human end of a basic biological discontinuity; and (2) since chimpanzee experiments have involved manual language, perhaps early human language also employed gestural signs. Early Greek, Roman, Moslem and Christian writings supposed language to be a gift from various gods. Descartes saw language as the distinction between man and animals. During the 17th and 18th centuries the debate continued as Europeans learned more about chimpanzees and apes. The 1859 publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species" rekindled the debate, among such writers as Thomas Huxley, Edward B. Tylor and Wilhelm Wundt. In this century primate experiments with manual and vocal language were begun. The experiments of the Gardners, Premack, Rumbaugh and Fouts with chimpanzees demonstrate language abilities in these animals. Molecular biology shows a close link between man and chimpanzees, but experiments do not explain how human language developed beyond the apes to vocal-auditory language. (CHK)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: N/A
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A