Thursday, January 02, 2003

BONOBO SPEAKS

Lab chimp speaks his own language

A bonobo has surprised his trainers by appearing to make up his own "words". It is the first report of an ape making sounds that seem to hold their meaning across different situations, and the latest challenge to the orthodox view that animals do not have language.

Kanzi is an adult bonobo kept at Georgia State University in Atlanta. He has grown up in captivity among humans, and is adept at communicating with symbols. He also understands some spoken English, and can respond to phrases such as "go out of the cage" and "do you want a banana?"

Jared Taglialatela and Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, who work with Kanzi, noticed that he was making gentle noises during his interactions with them....

They identified four sounds that Kanzi made in different contexts - banana, grapes, juice and yes. In each of these contexts, Kanzi made the same sound....