Kanzi Acquires Language in a Forest in Georgia
This book develops an idea originating in Japanese primatology and currently increasingly prominent in Western biology: the idea of culture in animals. Culture is often considered what distinguishes humans from animals. While we regard humans as living meaningfully in shared cultures developed and maintained in collaboration, animals are often conceived of as moving instinctively and alone in barren nature, according to innate genetic programs, even when they live in social groups. For instance, in an ambitious attempt to explore how human consciousness evolved, Merlin Donald writes that ‘our exceptional powers as a species derive from the curious fact that we have broken out of one of the most critical limitations of traditional nervous systems — their loneliness, or solipsism’ (Donald 2001: xiii). Although the author’s exposition of culture as a powerful dimension of human life is similar to the notion of culture developed in this book, we do not see culture as a uniquely human possession. Contemporary biologists studying animal behaviour are slowly transforming this black-and-white picture of what it is like to be an animal, as opposed to a human being. Researchers follow in the footsteps of Japanese primatologists by naming the individual animals under study and employing methods that probably would have created a scandal in Western science half a century ago.
KeywordsCultural Dimension Mother Tongue American Sign Language Killer Whale Human Language
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