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Experimental Conversations: Sign Language Studies with Chimpanzees

  • Mary Lee JensvoldEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Interdisciplinary Evolution Research book series (IDER, volume 1)

Abstract

Sign language studies of chimpanzees are a tool for studying the continuity between human behavior and behavior of other animals and between verbal behavior and other intelligent behavior. Cross-fostered chimpanzees paralleled children in their acquisition and use of signs and phrases. These procedures occurred under rigorous and systematic record keeping and experimental paradigms. The study of Wh-questions and the use of remote videotaping (RVT) are examples of experimental procedures. These revealed chimpanzee-to-chimpanzee signing and private signing. Face-to-face interactions between the chimpanzees and an interlocutor who presented various systematic probes is another experimental procedure. The chimpanzees adjusted to the interlocutor with revisions, new signs, or no response when appropriate. The hallmark of the sign language studies is that caregivers treated the chimpanzees as conversational partners socially motivated rather than experimental subjects bribed or forced into participation. These findings confirm continuity with differences of degree among species.

Keywords

Sign language experiments Project Washoe Chimpanzees Immersion learning 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and Museum StudiesCentral Washington UniversityEllensburgUSA

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