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Charles Hockett's (1960) list of properties of human language (he was a linguist) ... Miles, 1983 orangutan. Patterson & Linden, 1981 - gorilla ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Language

  • Chapter 12
  • Observational Learning, Language, and
    Rule-Governed Behavior

What is Language?
  • Charles Hocketts (1960) list of properties of
    human language (he was a linguist)
  • Semanticity words or signs or symbols stand for
    other things (e.g., objects, actions, or
    concepts) the symbols or words should evoke a
    mental representation of the objects that they

More Human Language Properties
  • Arbitrariness the symbols that stand for things
    have no inherent relationship with the thing they
    stand for (e.g., different languages actually
    have different symbols for the same thing, pomme
  • (reference semanticity arbitrariness)
  • Displacement or situational freedom we are able
    to communicate about things that are not
    currently present in time or space

More Human Language Properties
  • Productivity or generativity we are able to
    come up with unlimited new phrases or sentences
    by combining the symbols/words in our vocabulary
    in new ways or in new orders
  • Syntax or Grammar words or symbols fall into
    different categories and words from these
    categories must be presented in a certain order
    if you change the order of the words in a
    sentence it changes the meaning of the sentence
    (e.g., The dog bit Tom)

More Human Language Properties
  • Acquisition through traditional transmission
    language is learned as opposed to being inherited
    genetically (e.g., the bee dance language is a
    stereotyped communication system that is
    transmitted genetically and used for a limited
  • Duality of patterning the thousands of words
    that humans use are formed by recombining a
    limited number of basic speech sounds or phonemes
    (e.g., eat versus tea)

Do Animals have Language?
  • Seyfarth, Cheney, and Marler (1980)
  • Vervet monkeys in the wild use different vocal
    symbols for leopards (short tonal calls), eagles
    (low-pitched staccato), and snakes (high-pitched
  • Experimenters played a recording of the predator
    sounds when no predator was present
  • The monkeys reacted appropriately
  • Their study provided evidence for semanticity,
    arbitrariness, and also traditional transmission
    (young monkeys learned from older monkeys)

Brief History of Non-human Primate Language
  • Attempts to teach infant chimpanzees verbal
    language by raising them in a human family
    setting (Kellogg Kellogg, 1933 Hayes Hayes,
    1951 with Vicki)
  • Failed Chimpanzees vocal tract is not capable
    of producing all of the sounds necessary to speak
    human languages

Brief History of Non-human Primate Language
  • Attempts to teach apes American Sign Language
  • Washoe (chimp) with Gardner Gardner, 1969
  • Within 51 months of training she had acquired 132
    signs to use and probably understood more
  • Washoe often combined signs into 2-3 word
    phrases, some new (e.g., water bird)
  • Semanticity, reference, possible productivity

Brief History of Non-human Primate Language
  • Other attempts to teach apes American Sign
    Language (ASL)
  • Fouts, 1973 chimpanzee
  • Terrace, 1979 chimpanzee
  • Miles, 1983 orangutan
  • Patterson Linden, 1981 - gorilla

Brief History of Non-human Primate Language
  • Other approaches to language training in apes
    were conducted in order to have more experimental
  • Premack (1971, 1976) and Premack Premack
    (1972, 1983) used plastic symbols on a magnetic
    board with Sarah (a chimp)
  • Sarahs vocabulary grew to 130 items and she
    could use and understand sign combinations
  • Rumbaugh (1977) taught Lana (a chimp) a language
    called Yerkish which used symbols (called
    lexigrams) presented as keys on a computer

Brief History of Non-human Primate Language
  • Terrace (1979) taught sign language to a chimp
    named Nim Chimpsky in the laboratory and
    videotaped all of the interactions
  • Nim learned 125 signs and seemed to communicate
    in phrases or sentences
  • Terrace analyzed the videotapes in detail
  • Nim showed syntax by putting verb before object
  • 3-sign phrases did not add more meaning than the
    2-sign phrase
  • Nim frequently imitated the trainer, rather than
    spontaneously producing
  • Nim did not alternate speaking with the trainer
  • Terrace concluded that Nim was either imitating
    or emitting behaviors he knew would lead to reward

Brief History of Non-human Primate Language
  • Terraces (1979) analysis wreaked havoc with
    language training in general
  • Some of the problems were
  • Most studies reported only gross statistics and
    isolated anecdotes, hard to tell if creative
    stuff was occurring frequently or just
  • The trainers want and expect the apes to learn
    language, leading to overinterpretation did the
    animal understand that the symbol they used stood
    for something else?
  • Trainers could unintentionally cue the subject
  • The sentences could be learning of a serial order

Brief History of Non-human Primate Language
  • New approaches to training were developed
  • Rumbaugh and Savage-Rumbaugh (e.g., 1983, 1986)
    trained Sherman and Austin (chimps) using
    lexigrams. They tried to make it more like
    childrens acquisition of language functional
    use of signs to communicate with the trainers but
    also with each other
  • Sherman and Austin demonstrated symbolic meaning
    of arbitrary signs, they definitely had a
    representation of the object the lexigram
  • and were more successful!

Brief History of Non-human Primate Language
  • Even more success with a pygmy chimpanzee or
    bonobo named Kanzi (Savage-Rumbaugh et al., 1986)
  • Kanzi was not formally trained to begin with, he
    learned by observing his mother being trained
    (traditional transmission)
  • He was observed to practice with the keyboard in
    the absence of trainers
  • Kanzis use of symbols is more spontaneous and
    less tied to reward
  • Only 11 of his utterances were imitations or
    responses to prompts from the trainer
  • Kanzi used mostly 2 or 3 lexigram sentences
  • He responded accurately to English words spoken
  • Kanzis use of symbols conveyed more information,
    was more productive, and less tied to his own
    needs than other apes
  • Kanzi was compared to a 2.5 year-old girl and was
    as good or better than her at several language

Language Studies with Other Animals
  • Herman (and colleagues, 1984, 1993) have worked
    with 2 dolphins
  • Akeakamai was given visual gestures by a human
    and auditory signals played through the water
    were used with Phoenix
  • They definitely showed syntax
  • Pepperberg (1999) works with African Grey Parrots
    (the most famous being Alex)
  • Alex has demonstrated reference, syntax, and
    displacement while learning the english language

Can Animals Use Language?
  • Some animal species are capable of learning some
    aspects of langauge based on Hocketts properties
  • Some species have also shown the ability to use
    symbols in a variety of situations
  • Humans are still learning the best way to
    approach language training in animals as well!