Back to School Offer

Get 20% of Your First Order amount back in Reward Credits!

Get 20% of Your First Orderback in Rewards

All papers examples
Get a Free E-Book! ($50 Value)
HIRE A WRITER!
Paper Types
Disciplines
Get a Free E-Book! ($50 Value)

Can Apes Learn Language? Research Paper Example

Pages: 3

Words: 744

Research Paper

A significant issue within the academic world of linguistics and anthropology concerns whether the members of the great apes branch can learn a defined language, or more specifically, whether they possess the necessary language acquisition device within the brain necessary for the full learning and comprehension needed for communicating with a structured language. According to the nature of the debate, it becomes clear that the crux of the dispute revolves around the definition of language itself and what the required checklist is for demonstrating that language has been learned. Some professional researchers, such as psychologist and primate specialist E.S. Savage-Rumbaugh, defend a view that, “although apes are not capable of learning human language, they demonstrate a genuine ability to create new symbolic patterns that are similar to very rudimentary symbolic activity.” (170) In other words, Savage-Rumbaugh asserts that though apes cannot vocalize human sounds and therefore cannot verbalize words, they are capable of grasping the concepts, rules, and meanings of symbolic language and even of adding to that symbolic language on their own. In contrast, the anthropological linguist Joel Wallman suggests that all documented attempts at teaching members of the ape family sign language and symbolic systems show apes to be highly intelligent animals, but do not prove that apes possess an “innate capacity for language.” (171).

In other words, while Wallman admits that chimps and other apes have been able to learn symbolic systems and sign language taught to them by humans, these actions have not demonstrated that apes have an ability to create their own language without outside influence. When looking at the question from the perspective of both readings, however, I believe that there does exist an innate ability of language acquisition in at least one member of the ape family, the bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee. Savage-Rumbaugh cites the ability of a young bonobo chimp named Kanzi to learn signs and symbols for objects without the use of “moulding” and to understand directions and requests from spoken human word when no symbols or sign language is used. Furthermore, Kanzi is documented as being able to carry out actions humans are verbally discussing without sign language or the use of a symbolic system the first time he hears them. If we hold to the concept of a required language acquisition device being present for this level of understanding to occur, then the explanation for Kanzi’s actions must be that Kanzi possesses an innate ability for language acquisition. And if Kanzi has it, I would venture to state it follows that all pygmy chimps possess a language acquisition device, and I believe it is likely other members of the ape family do as well.

In order to develop this thesis, let us briefly summarize Savage-Rumbaugh and Wallman’s positions, in order to show how Kanzi’s behavior does indicate possession of a biological language acquisition device. For Savage-Rumbaugh, the key elements that differentiate Kanzi’s language ability from other language study apes are the ability to understand spoken language without the aid of symbols or sign language, the ability to communicate what he intends to do in the future, his ability to string together words in a rudimentary grammatical syntax, and the ability to perceive the relationship between a specific word and specific object without being expressly instructed in its relationship. For Wallman, the key elements that would indicate the presence of a language acquisition device include a proven ability to acquire even a weak grammatical system and comprehension of language through observation. When the two sets of elements are compared, it appears that Kanzi has shown elements that have been laid out to prove possession of a language acquisition device.

What’s more, to state that members of the ape family cannot possibly possess an innate ability for language requires it to be proven that they do not. This was already problematic, since so far there is no way sure way to check advanced comprehension in apes, but the documented abilities of the bonobo chimp Kanzi have made disproving the presence of an innate language device all the more difficult. Therefore, based on the evidence, I believe it can only be concluded that it is possible apes possess an innate ability for language acquisition. Perhaps it is only our own selfish pride in our species that prevents more scientists from recognizing this amazing feature in members of the great ape family.

Reference

Welsch, R. & Endicott, K. (2013). Taking side: Clashing views in anthropology (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Time is precious

Time is precious

don’t waste it!

Get instant essay
writing help!
Get instant essay writing help!
Plagiarism-free guarantee

Plagiarism-free
guarantee

Privacy guarantee

Privacy
guarantee

Secure checkout

Secure
checkout

Money back guarantee

Money back
guarantee

Related Research Paper Samples & Examples

Media Account Analysis: National Geographic, Research Paper Example

National Geographic is an established Instagram account with over 241 million followers. In all its posts, National Geographic focuses on oceans, land, wildlife, human ingenuity, [...]

Pages: 2

Words: 567

Research Paper

Health Reasons for Abortion, Research Paper Example

Abortion remains one of the most controversial subjects in the world, as some people support that it should be freedom while others believe it is [...]

Pages: 3

Words: 720

Research Paper

Indigenous Caribbean Art, Research Paper Example

Introduction The portrayal of cultural characteristics that are important to the populations that are native to that location is a common feature of the indigenous [...]

Pages: 9

Words: 2341

Research Paper

Jean Lamarr, Research Paper Example

Introduction Different cultures have different ways of fostering creativity and imagination. However, since people might be impacted by values and norms from different cultures, artists [...]

Pages: 5

Words: 1511

Research Paper

The Oppression of Indigenous People in Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas, Research Paper Example

Introduction Colonization perpetrated the oppression of indigenous communities. Also, the struggle against cultural imperialism lay at the heart of oppression as the culture of native [...]

Pages: 7

Words: 2029

Research Paper

Reviled and Loved Prompt, Research Paper Example

Introduction The media and channels of communication are vital in passing information in a society (Lovari et al., 2020, p315-p328). The information is specifically addressed [...]

Pages: 7

Words: 1948

Research Paper

Media Account Analysis: National Geographic, Research Paper Example

National Geographic is an established Instagram account with over 241 million followers. In all its posts, National Geographic focuses on oceans, land, wildlife, human ingenuity, [...]

Pages: 2

Words: 567

Research Paper

Health Reasons for Abortion, Research Paper Example

Abortion remains one of the most controversial subjects in the world, as some people support that it should be freedom while others believe it is [...]

Pages: 3

Words: 720

Research Paper

Indigenous Caribbean Art, Research Paper Example

Introduction The portrayal of cultural characteristics that are important to the populations that are native to that location is a common feature of the indigenous [...]

Pages: 9

Words: 2341

Research Paper

Jean Lamarr, Research Paper Example

Introduction Different cultures have different ways of fostering creativity and imagination. However, since people might be impacted by values and norms from different cultures, artists [...]

Pages: 5

Words: 1511

Research Paper

The Oppression of Indigenous People in Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas, Research Paper Example

Introduction Colonization perpetrated the oppression of indigenous communities. Also, the struggle against cultural imperialism lay at the heart of oppression as the culture of native [...]

Pages: 7

Words: 2029

Research Paper

Reviled and Loved Prompt, Research Paper Example

Introduction The media and channels of communication are vital in passing information in a society (Lovari et al., 2020, p315-p328). The information is specifically addressed [...]

Pages: 7

Words: 1948

Research Paper

Get a Free E-Book ($50 in value)

Get a Free E-Book

How To Write The Best Essay Ever!

How To Write The Best Essay Ever!