Are Apes Capable Of Using The Language?

This essay has a total of 876 words and 4 pages.

Are Apes Capable Of Using The Language?

Are apes capable of using the language?

During the recent time frame scientists have shown that such mammals as chimpanzees,
gorillas, and orangutans are capable of learning and using ASL (American Sign Language)
and several artificial languages like, for example, «Yerkish.» However, there is a
controversy in how far that ability of great apes spans. There are two different groups of
researchers, experimenting with language and apes, those who are in favor of a
«traditional» approach, and those who prefer a new, «modern» one. Most debates among
them are about the questions

 Can great apes meaningfully relate words?
 Can apes create sentences?

Having in mind these two questions, I tried to find the answer using the literature
written by researchers belonging to both «traditional» and «modern» doctrines.

Can great apes meaningfully relate words?

«Traditional» researchers believe that great apes cannot meaningfully relate words. They
believe that apes just use words which are mostly liked by their trainers in each concrete
situation, but they can be meaningless to apes. For example, «only 12 percent of
utterances were spontaneous-that is, 88 percent were preceded by a teacher's utterance»
(Herbert Terrace, 1979). In addition, a famous psychology professor at Columbia
University, Herbert Terrace, argues that «even if an animal produced such a sequence» as
«water bird,» «we could not conclude that it was a sentence» (1979). Moreover, «the
words and word order may be meaningful to an English speaker, they may be meaningless to
the animal producing them.» Not only Herbert Terrace, but also Duance Rumbaugh has
argued: «apes spontaneously string word units (signs, lexigrams) together»(1979).

These two scientists proved their affirmations by experiments and, maybe, I, as a result,
would believe them; however, there is another group of scientists who states that apes are
capable of meaningfully relating words. This group of scientists is representing a
«modern» doctrine. These researchers believe that apes are able of stringing words
together meaningfully. For example, Francine Patterson, a president and research director
of the Gorilla Foundation, announces than «after four years of Project Washoe, by 1970,
Washoe, a trained gorilla, had acquired 132 signs, and she used these signs in
combinations similar to those employed by children during the first stages of learning to
talk»(1978). Moreover, she, conducting experiments with Koko highlights a moment when she
«became irritated with» Koko «negatively,» Koko «quite accurately described herself
as a «stubborn devil»»(1978). I don't know what that means to other researchers, but
for me it really proves that at least one gorilla can string words together meaningfully
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