The Use of Emotion Symbols in Language-Using Apes

  • Heidi LynEmail author
  • Sue Savage-Rumbaugh
Part of the The Science of the Mind book series (The Science of the Mind)


There has been a long history of scientific disagreement about the ability of nonhumans to feel complex or even simple emotions. One of the stumbling blocks for recognition of emotions has been the inability of animals to communicate about emotions or any internal state. Here we look at the internal state utterances of language competent apes. In particular, four internal state symbols are explored: mad, happy, scared, and hurt. We find that these apes use these words appropriately and that developmentally, their use of internal state words occurs after they begin to use value based words like good and bad. We also find that there is less co-construction of internal state words as opposed to the more culturally changeable value based words.


Internal State Nonhuman Primate Basic Emotion Human Child Communicative Gesture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of Patricia Greenfield and Kristen Gillespie-Lynch in the collection and consolidation of the child-ape utterance database. Additional thanks go to the staff of the Language Research Center, Atlanta, GA in collecting the ape data. All applicable guidelines for animal care and use were followed throughout this study. The authors declare that they have no professional or financial affiliations that may be perceived to have biased this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gulf Coast; College of Education & PsychologyUniversity of Southern MississippiLong BeachUSA
  2. 2.Great Ape Trust of IowaDes MoinesUSA

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