Animal minds language News

Apes close to speaking? No.

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Koko with pipe/U Madison, Wisconson

From ScienceDaily:

Apes may be closer to speaking than many scientists think

In 2010, Marcus Perlman started research work at The Gorilla Foundation, where Koko has spent more than 40 years living immersed with humans — interacting for many hours each day with psychologist Penny Patterson and biologist Ron Cohn.

“She doesn’t produce a pretty, periodic sound when she performs these behaviors, like we do when we speak,” Perlman says. “But she can control her larynx enough to produce a controlled grunting sound.”

In other words, Koko does not speak.

“Decades ago, in the 1930s and ’40s, a couple of husband-and-wife teams of psychologists tried to raise chimpanzees as much as possible like human children and teach them to speak. Their efforts were deemed a total failure,” Perlman says. “Since then, there is an idea that apes are not able to voluntarily control their vocalizations or even their breathing.”

Whoever thought that was pretty dense.

These limits fit a theory on the evolution of language, that the human ability to speak is entirely unique among the nonhuman primate species still around today.

“This idea says there’s nothing that apes can do that is remotely similar to speech,” Perlman says. “And, therefore, speech essentially evolved — completely new — along the human line since our last common ancestor with chimpanzees.” More.

Notice the way Perlman words his argument: The accepted thesis is allegedly that “there’s nothing that apes can do that is remotely similar to speech.”

One would not say that of dogs or cats, let alone apes. But the fact is that there is no evidence from the article that Koko is progressing toward any type of speech, principally because she has nothing in particular to say.

The human ability to speak is in fact unique, despite Perlman’s unsuccessful cavilling.

But the really interesting question is, why would anyone feel the need to doubt that or come forward with such weak evidence?

In the middle ages, it was implausible miracle stories but today, it is implausible ape achievement stories. That signifies a difference in interests but no reduction in gullibility.

See also:

Can we talk? Language as the business end of consciousness

and

Matching Darwin’s “Tree of Life,” the “Tree of Intelligence” comes crashing down

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5 Replies to “Apes close to speaking? No.

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    “… the human ability to speak is entirely unique among the nonhuman primate species still around today.”

    OK, so I’ve been editing technical documents for lo! these many years, and in my business there is SIGNIFICANCE to the choice of words and the order in which one strings them together.

    That is, the internal logic of your text breaks down if you first create 2 or more distinct groups but then imply that the groups are the same group.

    So, the “ability to speak” is “entirely unique” to HUMANS, and is ABSENT from “the nonhuman primate species still around today”. [Note that even this phrasing STRONGLY implies that nonhuman primate species that disappeared prior to a week ago Tuesday ALL had the ability to speak.]

    But what is clearly MEANT is that there are Humans, who share common human traits that include speech, and there are NON-humans, which do NOT share human traits, including speech.

  2. 2
    Silver Asiatic says:

    One would not say that of dogs or cats, let alone apes. But the fact is that there is no evidence from the article that Koko is progressing toward any type of speech, principally because she has nothing in particular to say.

    Interesting insight. For the evolutionist, speech is merely a function of moving one’s vocal chords. Actually having any thoughts to communicate is irrelevant.

    But the really interesting question is, why would anyone feel the need to doubt that or come forward with such weak evidence?

    Good question. If apes were going to speak, the magic of evolution would have made it happen by now. But we have evolutionists trying to teach or coax them to speak. There were no evolutionists around to teach humans to speak. Evolutionary magic did that all by itself.

    In the middle ages, it was implausible miracle stories but today, it is implausible ape achievement stories. That signifies a difference in interests but no reduction in gullibility.

    I’m reminded of the mockery about a ‘talking snake’. But evolutionary magic can make apes talk, so there should be any surprise about what a few mutations in a snake lineage could do.

  3. 3
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Mahuna

    So, the “ability to speak” is “entirely unique” to HUMANS, and is ABSENT from “the nonhuman primate species still around today”. [Note that even this phrasing STRONGLY implies that nonhuman primate species that disappeared prior to a week ago Tuesday ALL had the ability to speak.]

    Interesting. That phrase “entirely unique to humans” was a problem for them. In fact, I was surprised to see it. I would have expected something like “the ability to speak is a significantly modified form of controlled grunting found, thus far, only in the human species, but sharing many characteristics of ape vocalization”.

    Instead, they added the phrase you pointed out “still around today”. Supposedly, there were non-human species who could speak in a prior era.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    apes could talk if they were smarter. They have the ability to control sounds.
    So just organize them and memorize between the group.
    Actually they get this all wrong.
    The great companion to speech is our tones of voice. Tones of anger, sad, happy, surprise and a long list.
    Do the apes use tones to express thoughts. they do cry and growl but thats not enough. Prove that before the making of words.
    Its just that they can’t memorize and have no reason to. They are really dumb.

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