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Inter-Species Diplomacy

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

We all know that chimps can be taught sign language, right? So a chimp can learn the sign for banana and the sign for ball and can make the right sign when shown the particular object. But is that language? Isn’t language something more than information transfer? Well, yes it is. We humans are very clever apes and we do all sorts of things with language. Can chimps argue a point, or negotiate for what they want? It appears that they can. This article describes a paper by Janni Pedersen of Iowa State University. It analyzes a video of a conversation between a bonobo chimp, Panbanisha, and a human, Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. Pedersen has this to say about Panbanisha:

“She was using language to get at what she wanted,” Pedersen said. “She is very, very clever and is fully capable of following the conversation the same way a human does. This tells me that Panbanisha’s knowledge of language is far beyond understanding the words, to understanding how to use them in a conversation to get what she wants.”

And one of these days a chimp is going to learn the sign language for “vote”.

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