Are Apes Capable of Using the Language?

Topics: Chimpanzee, Hominidae, Gorilla Pages: 3 (865 words) Published: December 8, 2001
Are apes capable of using the language?

During the recent time frame scientists have shown that such mammals as chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans are capable of learning and using ASL (American Sign Language) and several artificial languages like, for example, «Yerkish.» However, there is a controversy in how far that ability of great apes spans. There are two different groups of researchers, experimenting with language and apes, those who are in favor of a «traditional» approach, and those who prefer a new, «modern» one. Most debates among them are about the questions :

 Can great apes meaningfully relate words?
 Can apes create sentences?

Having in mind these two questions, I tried to find the answer using the literature written by researchers belonging to both «traditional» and «modern» doctrines.

Can great apes meaningfully relate words?

«Traditional» researchers believe that great apes cannot meaningfully relate words. They believe that apes just use words which are mostly liked by their trainers in each concrete situation, but they can be meaningless to apes. For example, «only 12 percent of utterances were spontaneous-that is, 88 percent were preceded by a teacher's utterance» (Herbert Terrace, 1979). In addition, a famous psychology professor at Columbia University, Herbert Terrace, argues that «even if an animal produced such a sequence» as «water bird,» «we could not conclude that it was a sentence» (1979). Moreover, «the words and word order may be meaningful to an English speaker, they may be meaningless to the animal producing them.» Not only Herbert Terrace, but also Duance Rumbaugh has argued: «apes spontaneously string word units (signs, lexigrams) together»(1979). These two scientists proved their affirmations by experiments and, maybe, I, as a result, would believe them; however, there is another group of scientists who states that apes are capable of meaningfully relating words. This group of scientists is...
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