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For more then thirty years, researchers have demonstrated that many animals can perhaps understand and communicate within some sort of language. Studies on bees, dolphins, whales, and most extensively the great apes have concluded that there is some resemblance to the human language ability. Just how far that resemblance extends, however, has been a matter of controversy. Is it possible that like the childhood favorite, Doctor Dolittle, animals are able to communicate in logical ways? Throughout this paper, the main focus will be the studies involving the great apes. Their resemblances to humans on main levels other then language is noticeable and has been proven in testing, such as DNA. The studies to further understand their communication abilities have reached quite different conclusions and in doing so bring up four important questions that are the main focus of the ape language debate and this paper.

1. How spontaneously have apes used language?

2. How creatively have apes used language?

3. Can apes create sentences?

4. What are the major implications of the ape language studies?

How Spontaneously Have Apes Used Language?

In 1979 Herbert Terrace of Columbia University published a skeptical account of his efforts to teach American Sign Language to a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky (Adams). He argued that the apes in the language experiments were not using language spontaneously but were merely imitating their trainers, responding to conscious or unconscious cues. Researches in the great ape studies took note and made great improvements in how the experiments were carried out and took care in keeping researcher influence to a minimum.

Perhaps the best evidence that apes are not merely responding to cues is that they have signed to one another spontaneously, without trainers present. One particular instance occurred when Koko, one of the more widely known great ape studies, and Micheal, a lesser known ape in the same study as Koko, were observed signing to each other (The Gorilla Foundation). This spontaneity of this signing provides some insight that these apes are actually communicating and not just reciprocating their trainers. The extent to which chimpanzees spontaneously use language may depend on their training. Terrace trained Nim using the behaviorist technique of operant conditioning, so it is not surprising

that many of Nim's signs were cued. Many other researchers have used a conversational approach that parallels the process that humans teach children to acquire language.

How Creatively Have Apes Used Language?

There is considerable evidence that apes have invented creative names. One of the earliest controversial examples involved Washoe, a chimpanzee caught in the wild and brought to Mr. and Mrs. R. Allen Gardener. Washoe, who was taught sign language and knew the signs for both "water" and "bird", once signed "waterbird" when she saw a swan. Many quickly discredited that Washoe actually knew the swan was a "bird of water" but credited to the fact that she probably was identitfying the water and the bird in that order (Wikipedia).

Many of the other great apes that have learned sign language have put signs together to symbolize a certain object. For instance Koko has a long list of creative names to her credit: "elephant baby" for a Pinocchio doll, "finger bracelet" to describe a ring, "bottle match" to indicate a cigarette lighter, and so on (The Gorilla Foundation). These examples hold strong against the criticism of Washoe's "waterbird". There is no way that Koko saw an elephant and then a baby before signing "elephant baby" or a bottle and a match before signing "bottle match".

Can Apes Create Sentences?

Early ape language studies offered little proof that apes could combine symbols into grammatically ordered sentences. Apes strung together signs, but the order was often random and repetitious. Nim's series of sixteen signs is a case in point: "give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you" (Talking With Chimps).

More recent studies with the bonobos at the Language Reasearch Center in Atlanta have broken new ground. Kanzi, a bonobo trained by Savage-Rumbaugh, seems



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