ERIC Number: ED385148
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1995-Jun-26
Can Human-Taught Primates Produce a Non-Verbal Language?
Jaramillo, James A.
The debate over whether primates can be taught visual language is examined, and evidence of use of nonverbal language in primate studies is compared with the language criteria of a number of linguistic researchers. Background information on language, visual language (including sign language), and the parameters of the studies is offered, including oral and human language criteria, conception of grammar, and use of word symbols (chip symbology). The performance of four apes in different studies, using different methods to teach visual language, is then examined in terms of these parameters. It is concluded that the apes can mentally manipulate abstract concepts that have been defined by means of an arbitrary code, and that this manipulation involves mentally scanning a set of symbols and cognitively selecting one on the basis of its specific linguistic context. Ape results proved to be linguistically coded and expressed, establishing true linguistic comprehensive production. Despite the fact that the ape linguistic abilities were far below the level of adult communication, the apes did spontaneously create word order units and combine familiar terms into new ones. It is concluded that based on these results, apes possess inherent rudimentary language potential. (MSE)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A