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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 30, Issue 1, 2002

Dominique Lestel
Pages 201-211

Human/animal communications, language, and evolution

The article compares the research programs of teaching symbolic language to chimpanzees, pointing on the dichotomy between artificial language vs. ASL, and the dichotomy between researchers who decided to establish emotional relationships between themselves and the apes, and those who have seen apes as instrumental devices. It is concluded that the experiments with the most interesting results have been both with artificial language and ASL, but with strong affiliation between researchers and animal involved in the experiments. The experiments on talking apes are not so much experiments in psycholinguistics (how far can animal learn human language) but wonderful experiments in the communities of communication between human beings and great apes.

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