primate communication

peterson peterson at
Tue Nov 12 02:46:35 UTC 2002

With Valentina's last post, this strand of debate has come to eerily resemble
a graduate course in linguistics I took at Brown University from Bill Beeman.
For reasons none of us were clear on, Bill started us out with a bunch of
stuff on ape language.  We covered hot debates about whether gorillas "really"
"spoke" sign, or whether it was just "Clever Hans" syndrome with smarter
animals, etc.  We read about gibbons, and chimps and so forth.  We took
opposite sides and argued.  Then Bill took OUR discourse and began to analyze
it.  He showed us how we were replicating the discourses of the things we were
reading, and how the debates went beyond what empirical evidence could
demonstrate either way.  Whatever else they might be, at one level these
debates were about what it means to be human, and whether language is an index
of humanity.


Mark Allen Peterson
Visiting Assistant Profesor
Gettysburg College
Gettysburg, PA  17325
mpeterso at

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