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Transcript of Savage Rumbaugh
Why teach language to apes?
Theories of language acquisition
Language Acquisition Device (LAD)
unique to humans?
Is language species specific?
What is Language?
A suggested list of criteria:
Words can be used for things that are not there
Create novel sentences
Word can be used in more than one context
Words mean something (e.g. chair/hurt)
Symbols are combined according to rules of grammar
– small number of signals meaningless alone but combined to produce infinite number of messages
– way in which one person or animal transmits information to another and influences them
Seboek said that language studies can be divided into 3 categories -
"outright fraud, self deception & those conducted by Terrace"
Sherman & Austin
Focused on comprehension rather than production - if an ape understands language - it can be said to have language!?!
To report on the language acquisition of Kanzi & his younger sister, Mulika
To compare language acquisition of the bonobos to Sherman & Austin
A longitudinal case study conducted over a 17mth period
Data was gathered via observation
What is meant
* Bonobo chimp born in captivity
* Reared in a Language Research Centre -
(mother) was intended subject
* When 2.5years
began using symbols spontaneously
joined the study and
Sherman & Austin (common chimps)
were used for comparsion
* 55 acres forest - with 17 food locations e.g.
= tree house
* Kanzi learned all locations - could guide people to these locations
* Language centre
* Helped with laundry & food preparation
* Could play games & watch TV
Lexigram (visual symbol system)
* Consisted of geometric symbols (lexigrams) which brightened when touched.
* These symbols were on an electronic keyboard, or on a pointing board for use outside.
* A speech synthesiser was added when it became apparent that
could comprehend words, so the appropriate words were spoken when a symbol was touched
Data recording & criteria
for language acquisition
* From 2yrs & 6mths
utterance were recorded and coded for 17mths
* Indoor = automatically
* Outdoor = by hand & entered into a computer at the end of the day
Utterances were classified as follows
* Correct or incorrect
* Spontaneous, imitated or structured (initiated)
Criteria for deciding whether Kanzi had acquired a symbol
1. Spontaneous utterance
2. Utterance had to match behaviour
3. Utterance had to be used on 9/10 occasions
was special because he acquired symbols
spontaneously, without training. In essence, he had acquired them while his mother was being trained!
* 4.5 hrs of video recording was made of real-time recording
* 1 scored real time (unaware it would be used) & 1 scored tape
* Real time recording was good (real time = 37 - video = 46)
* Of the 37 there was 100% agreement
* 1 disagreement over whether lexigram was structured or spontaneous
To check that observations were valid & accurate - a
test for inter-rater reliability
was carried out.
1. Aged 6-16mths
used gestures spontaneously more than
2. Early on
understood that lexigrams stood for particular things. For example, if he asked for an
& then offered
- would take the
single word utternaces by 46mths comprised of 44 lexigrams
4. Like children -
understood language before producing it!
used multiple combinations - accounted for 6% of his utterance
made 2805 combined utterances
* 2540 were non-imitated
"A chase B" (not imitated!!!!!)
* 80% of
utterances were spontaneous (S&A depended on situational cues -
low spontaneous usage
* Tests avoided cueing or prompting
* Items recorded correct if scored 3 out of 3
* Results showed that Kanzi could understand spoken English whereas common chimps cannot!!!!!
* S&A could not match photos to spoken English however did well on photo to symbol
Blind test in the Forest
* Aged 3 Kanzi took an experimenter around the woods (this person had never been to the woods).
Kanzi learned to use the symbols spontaneously
Sherman & Austin needed to be trained to use symbols
Kanzi/Pygmy chimps understand spoken English
Common chimps can't understand spoken English
Common chimps can easily generalise symbols BUT don't learn to specify - e.g. use coke & Juice interchangeably
Pygmy chimps don't make this mistake
once the 2 symbols are learnt
S&A never formed requests where they were neither the actor or beneficiary
Kanzi was able to request that A act on B