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Language in Primates


Uses signs for emotion (e.g. Sad kitten gone) Chats on the internet (no, really) Would Koko like to have a kitten, a dog, or another Gorilla as a friend? LiveKOKO:dog ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Language in Primates

Language in Primates
  • Do our closest evolutionary relatives have the
    ability to learn and use language?
  • If so, then the differences between our
    respective species may be less than we have
    previously believed.
  • Chimpanzees (Washoe, Loulis, Nim)
  • Bonobos (Kanzi and Matata)
  • Gorillas (Koko)

Chimps Washoe
  • Adopted by Drs. Beatrix and Allen Gardner
  • Studied by Drs. Roger Deborah Fouts since 1980
  • First chimp to be taught ASL
  • Was able to learn about 200 signs and combine
    them 2 or 3 at a time
  • Taught signs to her adopted son Loulis

Chimps Nim Chimpsky
  • Taught ASL by Herbert Terrace.
  • Skeptical of reports about Washoe
  • Was able to teach Nim numerous signs
  • Never saw evidence that Nim could combine signs
    except when promted to do so by experimenters
  • Nim died last year

Bonobos Kanzi
  • Studied by Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh
  • Was present when his mother (Matata) was being
    taught to use lexigrams
  • Though Matata didnt learn, Kanzi did
  • Spontaneously learned and combined many lexigrams
  • Shows evidence for comprehending word order

Bonobos Is Kanzi typical?
  • In a word, no.
  • Though other bonobos have learned some lexigrams,
    only one other has done so to the degree of
    Kanzi. (His mother learned 6 lexigrams in 5
    years, his sibling learned about 15 in 3 years).
  • Was it because Kanzi is somehow unique, or were
    the conditions of his rearing unique?
  • Probably the latter. Learned the symbols through
    natural exposure rather than rigid training.
  • Best evidence for language acuqisition in
    non-humans to this date

Gorillas Koko
  • Dr. Francine Patterson taught Koko ASL
  • Knows several hundred signs and combines them
  • Uses signs for emotion (e.g. Sad kitten gone)
  • Chats on the internet (no, really)

  • Would Koko like to have a kitten, a dog, or
    another Gorilla as a friend?
  • LiveKOKOdog
  • DrPPatrsnShe actually has two dog friends right
    now one kitty and two gorillas.
  • HaloMyBabySBM87 asks, What are the names of your
    kittens? (and dogs?)
  • LiveKOKOfoot
  • DrPPatrsnFoot isn't the name of your kitty
  • HaloMyBabyKoko, what's the name of your cat?
  • LiveKOKOno
  • Koko tell us what you look like in your words?
  • LiveKOKOflower
  • DrPPatrsnOne of the scrunchies has a big flower
    on it.
  • LiveKOKOeat now
  • DrPPatrsnShe wants some more of the snack,
  • LiveKOKOsleep, red red
  • DrPPatrsnShe's indicating the red scrunchie.

How about computers?
  • Many attempts to get computational systems to
    learn language a la the child
  • Most have used some sort of connectionist, or
    parallel distributed processing, network to
    accomplish this feat (artificial neural networks)
  • Try to model various aspects of language
  • Vocabulary learning (Elman)
  • Acquisition of the past tense (Rumelhart

Rumelhart McClelland (1986, 1996)
  • Past-tense learning
  • Works on phonological pattern recognition and
    prior experience with regular and irregular verbs
  • Attempts to generalize rules and apply them to
    novel stems the system has never encountered
    before (just like a child)

How does it do?
  • Correctly generalizes to about 70 of unfamiliar
    word stems
  • Makes many errors of types that children never
  • mail?membled
  • wink?wok
  • satisfy?sedderded
  • smairf?sprurice
  • frilg?freezled
  • smeej?leefloag

What to conclude
  • Pinker and others take these sorts of results as
    proof that a general AI learning system could not
    learn language
  • Others see these as good approximations of what
    actually occurs, and simply that the model and/or
    parameters and/or the input needs to be specified
  • Will we ever have a language learning machine?
  • Nick Laceys gonna tell us