Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-xm8r8 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-15T17:14:46.007Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

19 - A Requiem for Ape Language Research

The Cognitive Foundations of Language

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2022

Bennett L. Schwartz
Affiliation:
Florida International University
Michael J. Beran
Affiliation:
Georgia State University
Get access

Summary

Whether great apes possess the capacity to acquire elements of human language is an enduring scientific question. Over the last 50 years, results from laboratories using either American Sign Language or an artificial symbol-based communication system suggested that core capacities for language acquisition and comprehension are present in apes. After the completion of these projects, newer approaches examining properties of great ape vocalizations and referential gestures have taken up the question. Results from ape language research challenge the claim that human language is a uniquely derived evolutionary specialization, but we are far from reaching consensus on this point. Through these language studies, apes have demonstrated socio-cognitive abilities crucial for the development of language skills, such as joint attention, intersubjectivity, and processing abilities that include referentiality and use of top-down processing for speech restoration. In this chapter, we review ape language projects, the additional work they inspired, and how the results of these studies offer insight into the evolution of language-related cognitive capabilities. We also discuss the effects of enculturation on language acquisition and ethical quandaries that stem from raising apes in homes and laboratories to test hypotheses about the evolution of cognition and language.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Arnold, K., & Zuberbühler, K. (2006). Semantic combinations in primate calls. Nature, 441, 303.Google Scholar
Bard, K. A., Bakeman, R., Boysen, S. T., & Leavens, D. A. (2014). Emotional engagements predict and enhance social cognition in young chimpanzees. Developmental Science, 17, 682696.Google Scholar
Bard, K. A., & Gardner, K. H. (1996). Influences on development in infant chimpanzees: Enculturation, temperament, and cognition. In Russon, A. E., Bard, K. A., & Parker, S. T. (Eds.), Reaching into thought: The minds of the great apes (pp. 235256). Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Bard, K. A., & Leavens, D. A. (2014). The importance of development for comparative primatology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 43, 183200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bayley, N. (1969). Bayley scales of infant development. Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
Beran, M. J., & Heimbauer, L. A. (2015). A longitudinal assessment of vocabulary retention in symbol-competent chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). PLoS ONE, 10, e0118408.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Beran, M. J., Menzel, C. R., Parrish, A. E., Perdue, B. M., Sayers, K., Smith, J. D., & Washburn, D. A. (2016). Primate cognition: Attention, episodic memory, prospective memory, self-control, and metacognition as examples of cognitive control in nonhuman primates. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Cognitive Science, 7, 294316.Google Scholar
Beran, M. J., Parrish, A. E., & Evans, T. A. (2015). Numerical cognition and quantitative abilities in nonhuman primates. In Geary, D., Berch, D., & Mann Koepke, K. (Eds.), Evolutionary origins and early development of number processing (pp. 91119). Elsevier.Google Scholar
Boesch, C., Bombjaková, D., Meier, A., & Mundry, R. (2019). Learning curves and teaching when acquiring nut-cracking in humans and chimpanzees. Scientific Reports, 9, 1515 (2019).Google Scholar
Brakke, K. E., & Savage-Rumbaugh, E. S. (1995). The development of language skills in bonobo and chimpanzee: I. Comprehension. Language & Communication, 15, 121148.Google Scholar
Brakke, K. E., & Savage-Rumbaugh, E. S. (1996). The development of language skills in pan: II. Production. Language & Communication, 16, 361380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax. MIT Press.Google Scholar
Darwin, G. H. (1875). A letter to William Dwight Whitney, Dec. 21, 1875. www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-10314.xmlGoogle Scholar
Davis, M. H., Johnsrude, I. S., Hervais-Adelman, A., Taylor, K., McGettigan, C. (2005). Lexical information drives perceptual learning of distorted speech: Evidence from the comprehension of noise-vocoded sentences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 134, 222241.Google Scholar
Eaton, T., Hutton, R., Leete, J., Lieb, J., Robeson, A., & Vonk, J. (2018). Bottoms-up! Rejecting top-down human-centered approaches in comparative psychology. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 31, article 37589.Google Scholar
Fouts, D. H. (1989). Signing interactions between mother and infant chimpanzees. In Heltne, P. G. & Marquardt, L. A. (Eds.), Understanding chimpanzees (pp. 242251). Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Fouts, R. S. (1972). Use of guidance in teaching sign language to a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 80, 515522.Google Scholar
Fouts, R. S. (1973). Acquisition and testing of gestural signs in four young chimpanzees. Science, 180, 978980.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fouts, R. S. (1997). Next of kin. William Morrow & Company.Google Scholar
Fouts, R. S., Chown, B., & Goodin, L. (1976). Transfer of signed responses in American Sign Language from vocal English stimuli to physical object stimuli by a chimpanzee (Pan). Learning and Motivation, 7, 458475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fouts, R. S., Fouts, D. H., & Van Cantfort, T. E. (1989). The infant Loulis learns signs from cross-fostered chimpanzees. In Gardner, R. A., Gardner, B. T., & Van Cantfort, T. E. (Eds.), Teaching sign language to chimpanzees (pp. 280292). State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
Fouts, R. S., Hirsch, A. D., & Fouts, D. H. (1982). Cultural transmission of a human language in a chimpanzee mother–infant relationship. In Fitzgerald, H. E., Mullins, J. A., & Page, P. (Eds.), Psychobiological perspectives: Child nurturance (Vol. 3, pp. 159193). Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gallup, G. G. Jr. (1970). Chimpanzees: Self-recognition. Science, 167, 8687.Google Scholar
Gardner, B. T. (1964). Hunger and sequential responses in the hunting behavior of salticid spiders. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 58, 167173.Google Scholar
Gardner, B. T., & Gardner, R. A. (1971). Two-way communication with an infant chimpanzee. In Schrier, A. M. & Stollnitz, F. (Eds.), Behavior of nonhuman primates (Vol. 4, pp. 117184). Academic Press.Google Scholar
Gardner, B. T., & Gardner, R.A. (1989). Prelinguistic development in children and chimpanzees. Human Evolution, 4, 433460.Google Scholar
Gardner, B. T., & Gardner, R. A. (1994). Development of phrases in the utterances of children and cross-fostered chimpanzees. In Gardner, R. A., Gardner, B. T., Chiarelli, B., & Plooij, F. X. (Eds.), The ethological roots of culture (pp. 223255). Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gardner, B. T., & Gardner, R. A. (1998). Development of phrases in the early utterances of children and cross-fostered chimpanzees. Human Evolution, 13, 161188.Google Scholar
Gardner, B. T., Gardner, R. A., & Nichols, S. G. (1989). The shapes and uses of signs in a cross-fostering laboratory. In Gardner, R. A., Gardner, B. T., & Van Cantfort, T. E. (Eds.), Teaching sign language to chimpanzees (pp. 55180). State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
Gardner, R. A., & Gardner, B. T. (1969). Teaching sign language to a chimpanzee. Science, 165, 664672.Google Scholar
Goodall, J. (1986). The chimpanzees of Gombe. Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Hayes, K. J., & Hayes, C. H. (1951). The intellectual development of a home-raised chimpanzee. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 95, 105109.Google Scholar
Hayes, K. J., & Nissen, C. H. (1971). Higher mental functions of a home-raised chimpanzee. In Schrier, A. M. & Stollnitz, F. (Eds.), Behavior of nonhuman primates (Vol 4, pp. 60115). Academic Press.Google Scholar
Heimbauer, L. A., Beran, M. J., & Owren, M. J. (2011). A chimpanzee recognizes synthetic speech with significantly reduced acoustic cues to phonetic content. Current Biology, 21, 12101214.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Heimbauer, L. A., Beran, M. J., & Owren, M. J. (2018). A chimpanzee’s (Pan troglodytes) perception of variations in speech: Identification of familiar words when whispered and when spoken by a variety of talkers. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 31, 116.Google Scholar
Heimbauer, L. A., Beran, M. J., & Owren, M. J. (2021). A chimpanzee recognized varied acoustical versions of sine-wave and noise-vocoded speech. Animal Cognition, 24, 843854.Google Scholar
Hess, E. (2008). Nim Chimpsky: The chimp who would be human. Bantam Books.Google Scholar
Hoff, E. (2013). Language Development. Wadsworth.Google Scholar
Kellogg, W. N., & Kellogg, L. A. (1933). The ape and the child. Hafner Publishing Company.Google Scholar
Krause, M. A., & Beran, M. J. (2020). Words matter: Reflections on language projects with chimpanzees and their implications. American Journal of Primatology, 82, e23187.Google Scholar
Kuhl, P. (1988). Auditory perception and the evolution of speech. Human Evolution, 3, 1943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ladygina-Kohts, N. N. (1935/2002). Infant chimpanzee and human child: A classic 1935 comparative study of ape emotions and intelligence. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Lenneberg, E. H. (1967). Biological foundations of language. Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lyn, H. (2012). Apes and the evolution of language: Taking stock of 40 years of research. In Vonk, J. & Shakelford, T. K. (Eds.), Oxford handbook of comparative evolutionary psychology (pp. 356378). Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Lyn, H., & Christopher, J. L. (2020). How environment can reveal semantic capacities in nonhuman animals. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 7, 159167.Google Scholar
Lyn, H., Greenfield, P. M., Savage-Rumbaugh, E. S., Gillespie-lynch, K., & Hopkins, W. D. (2011). Nonhuman primates do declare! A comparison of declarative symbol and gesture use in two children, two bonobos, and a chimpanzee. Language and Communication, 31, 6374.Google Scholar
Matsuzawa, T. (2003). The Ai project: Historical and ecological contexts. Animal Cognition, 6, 199211.Google Scholar
Miles, H. L. (1990). The cognitive foundations for reference in a signing orangutan. In Parker, S. T. & Gibson, K. R. (Eds.), “Language” and intelligence in monkeys and apes (pp. 511539). Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Nygaard, L. C., & Pisoni, D.B. (1998). Talker-specific learning in speech perception. Perception and Psychophysics, 60, 355376.Google Scholar
Nygaard, L. C., Sommers, M. S., & Pisoni, D. B. (1994). Speech perception as a talker-contingent process. Psychological Science, 5, 4246.Google Scholar
O’Sullivan, C., & Yeager, C. P. (1989). Communicative context and linguistic competence: The effects of social setting on a chimpanzee’s conversational skill. In Gardner, R. A., Gardner, B. T., & Van Cantfort, T. E. (Eds.), Teaching sign language to chimpanzees (pp. 269279). State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
Owren, M. J., Rendall, D., & Ryan, M. J. (2010). Redefining animal signaling: Influence versus information in communication. Biological Philosophy, 25, 755780.Google Scholar
Patterson, F. G. (1978). The gestures of a gorilla: Language acquisition in another pongid. Brain and Language, 5, 7297.Google Scholar
Patterson, F. G., & Cohn, R. H. (1990). Language acquisition by a lowland gorilla: Koko’s first ten years of vocabulary development. Word, 41, 97143.Google Scholar
Pepperberg, I. M. (2017). Animal language studies: What happened? Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 24, 181185.Google Scholar
Pisoni, D.B. (1995). Some thoughts on “normalization” in speech perception. Research on Spoken Language Processing, Progress Report No. 20, Indiana University, 3–29.Google Scholar
Premack, D. (1971). Language in chimpanzee? Science, 172, 808822.Google Scholar
Rabinowitz, A. (2016). Linguistic competency of bonobos (Pan paniscus) raised in a language-enriched environment. Unpublished master’s thesis. Iowa State University.Google Scholar
Radick, G. (2008). The simian tongue. University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Remez, R. E. (2005). Perceptual organization of speech. In Pisoni, D. B. & Remez, R. E. (Eds.), The handbook of speech perception (pp. 2850). Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
Rivas, E. (2005). Recent use of signs by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in interactions with humans. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 119, 404417.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Romanes, G. J. (1889). On the mental faculties of Anthropithecus calvus. Nature, 40, 160162.Google Scholar
Romski, M. A., & Sevcik, R. A. (1996). Breaking the speech barrier: Language development through augmented means. Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
Romski, M. A., Sevcik, R. A., & Pate, J. L. (1988). The establishment of symbolic communication in a person with severe retardation. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 53, 94107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rumbaugh, D. M. (2002). Emergents and rational behavior. Eye on Psi Chi, 6, 814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rumbaugh, D. M. (2013). With apes in mind. KB Press.Google Scholar
Rumbaugh, D. M., & Gill, T. V. (1977). Lana’s acquisition of language skills. In Rumbaugh, D. M. (Ed.), Language learning by a chimpanzee: The Lana Project (pp. 165192). Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rumbaugh, D. M., & Savage-Rumbaugh, E. S. (1996). Behavioral roots of language: Words, apes, and a child. In Velichkovsky, B. M. & Rumbaugh, D. M. (Eds.), Communicating meaning: The evolution and development of language (pp. 257274). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
Rumbaugh, D. M., & Washburn, D. A. (2003). Intelligence of apes and other rational beings. Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Saberi, K., & Perrott, D. R. (1999). Cognitive restoration of reversed speech, Nature, 398, 760.Google Scholar
Savage-Rumbaugh, S., Fields, W. M., & Taglialatela, J. (2000). Ape consciousness-human consciousness: A perspective informed by language and culture. American Zoology, 40, 910921.Google Scholar
Savage-Rumbaugh, S., & Lewin, R. (1994). Kanzi: The ape at the brink of the human mind. Wiley.Google Scholar
Savage-Rumbaugh, S., McDonald, K., Sevcik, R. A., Hopkins, W. D., & Rubert, E. (1986). Spontaneous symbol acquisition and communicative use by pygmy chimpanzees (Pan paniscus). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 115, 211235.Google Scholar
Schweller, K. (2012). Apes with apps. IEEE Spectrum, 49, 3845.Google Scholar
Sebeok, T. A., & Umiker-Sebeok, J. (Eds.). (1980). Speaking of apes: A critical anthology of two-way communication with man. Plenum Press.Google Scholar
Seidenberg, M. S., & Petitto, L. A. (1979). Signing behavior in apes: A critical review. Cognition, 7, 177215.Google Scholar
Sevcik, R. A. (1989). A comprehensive analysis of graphic symbol acquisition and use: Evidence from an infant bonobo (Pan paniscus). Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Georgia State University.Google Scholar
Sevcik, R.A., Barton-Hulsey, A., Romski, M. A., & Fonseca, A. H. (2018). Visual graphic symbol acquisition in school age children with developmental and language delays. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 34, 265275.Google Scholar
Sevcik, R., & Romski, M.A. (1986). Representational matching skills of persons with severe retardation. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 2, 160164.Google Scholar
Seyfarth, R.M., Cheney, D. L., & Marler, P. (1980a). Monkey responses to three different alarm calls: Classification and semantic communication. Science, 210, 801803.Google Scholar
Seyfarth, R. M., Cheney, D. L., & Marler, P. (1980b). Vervet monkey alarm calls: Semantic communication in a free-ranging primate. Animal Behaviour, 28, 10701094.Google Scholar
Slocombe, K. E., & Zuberbühler, K. (2005). Functionally referential communication in a chimpanzee. Current Biology, 15, 17791784.Google Scholar
Snell, M. E., Brady, N., McLean, L., Ogletree, B. T., Siegel, E., Sylvester, L., Mollica, B. M., Paul, D., Romski, M. A., & Sevcik, R. (2010). Twenty years of communication intervention research with individuals who have severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 115, 364380.Google Scholar
Struhsaker, T. T. (1967). Auditory communication among vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops). In Altmann, S. A. (Ed.), Social communication among primates (pp. 281324). University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Temerlin, M. K. (1976). Lucy: Growing up human. Bantam.Google Scholar
Terrace, H. S. (1979). Nim: A chimpanzee who learned sign language. Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Terrace, H. S. (1985). In the beginning was a “name.” American Psychologist, 40(9), 10111028.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Terrace, H. S. (2019). Why chimpanzees can’t learn language and only humans can. Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Terrace, H. S., Petitto, L. A., Sanders, R. J., & Bever, T. G. (1979). Can an ape create a sentence? Science, 206, 891206.Google Scholar
Trout, J. D. (2001). The biological basis of speech: What to infer from talking to the animals. Psychological Review, 108, 523549.Google Scholar
Tugendhat, B. (1960). The normal feeding behavior of the three-spined stickleback, Behaviour, 15, 284318.Google Scholar
Vonk, J. (2020). Forty years on from the questions of referential signals in nonhuman communication. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 7, 8286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yerkes, R. M., & Learned, B. W. (1925). Chimpanzee intelligence and its vocal expressions. The William and Wilkins Company.Google Scholar
Yerkes, R. M., & Yerkes, A. W. (1929). The great apes: A study of anthropoid life. Yale University Press.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×