Bonobo’s Using Language?

Posted on July 9, 2006  Comments (1)

bonobo with a symbols board she uses to communicate

A Voluble Visit with Two Talking Apes by Jon Hamilton, NPR.

But linguists still weren’t satisfied. They pointed out that humans invent metaphors and figures of speech when literal meanings aren’t enough.

Savage-Rumbaugh says the bonobos pass this test, as well. For example, Panbanisha once used the symbol for “monster” when referring to a visitor who misbehaved.

Bill Fields, a researcher at the Great Ape Trust and a close friend of Kanzi, recalls another time when Kanzi used language creatively.

Fields says it was during a visit by a Swedish scientist named Par Segerdahl. Kanzi knew that Segerdahl was bringing bread. But Kanzi’s keyboard had no symbol for Segerdahl the scientist. So he got the attention of Savage-Rumbaugh’s sister, Liz, and began pointing to the symbols for “bread” and “pear,” the fruit.

“Liz got it immediately,” Fields says. “She says, ‘What do you mean Kanzi? Are you talking about Par or pears to eat?’ And he pointed over to Par.”

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One Response to “Bonobo’s Using Language?”

  1. Curious Cat: Bonobo Research
    September 27th, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

    In a private facility just outside Des Moine, Iowa , primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh is conducting an experiment that has lasted 26 years.,,

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