Apes Can Communicate: A Discussion on Relevant Researches
Can apes talk? That has been a question that has stirred the minds of myriads of scientists and linguists over the centuries and even today it has remained as one of the topics of thorough research and analysis. Several scientific studies have been conducted and many others are still in progress to find out whether apes can understand human language. And in the course of such experiments researchers have rendered efforts to teach apes how to communicate with human beings in their own unique way. Moreover, the primary endeavor in this paper is to reveal before the readers the work of an associate professor in psychology, Professor Sally Boysen, and Primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, the two eminent researchers who are still rendering painstaking efforts to teach apes how to communicate with humans and to thereby discover the mystery that has enshrouded the realm of the communication system of the apes.
It is some basic similarities between primates and the human beings that encouraged researchers to think that just like human beings apes must be also capable of understanding the process of human communication and such understanding can also help apes learn how to communicate with human beings. Among some basic similarities that can be found between apes and human beings is the erect posture along with a generalized limb structure that allows apes to perform different functions including grasping and manipulating objects. Moreover, it is just like the humans that the apes are able to use a wide range of dietary sources to their favor. The dental pattern of the apes also has some similarity with that of the humans and in respect of vision both the apes and the humans possess stereoscopic and binocular vision. Moreover, the complex brain structure of both the apes and the humans make it possible for both these species to understand relationship between sets of information and to pass the analyzed and understood information to successive generations. Finally, just like the humans the reproductive pattern of the apes is characterized by lower birth rate and elongated period of parental care which again indicates a strong emotional and social bond. And it is all these similarities which instigated psychologists like Sally Boysen and Primatologists like Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh to belief that just like human beings, apes have cognitive skills which can enable them to learn more about human language and human communication processes.
It is a fact that for centuries, debates are going round the fact that whether apes have the ability to think like human beings or whether they can understand human language and the human communication processes. And to put an end to such debates, several researchers have devoted their life in finding out ways to teach apes (who have remained the subjects of their research) how to communicate with human beings. The concerned researchers have stuck to the belief that "Animals communicate - without language - for a variety of purposes" (Anderson, 2004, p. 73). And it is this belief which has motivated some researchers to find out ways through which apes can be teach to communicate with human beings.
Several researchers have continued with their effort of teaching apes how to communicate with humans and the subjects of their research have raged from chimpanzees to gorillas. Some researchers, during the course of their experiments have observed that on the part of the apes there is a strong capability of learning about and understanding the human communication process apart from having the capacity of learning how to communicate with human beings. P
rofessor Sally Boysen, an associate professor of psychology, has spent her entire career in observing the behaviors of chimpanzees, the closest cousins of man. Chimpanzees have been the subjects of Boysen's research for some primary reasons. Primarily, there are certain behavioral characteristics of chimpanzees which show closeness to human behaviors and are different from other apes. For an instance, "Most non-human primate communities are more or less closed to contact with members of other communities. Most often, they are tied to a particular locale and rarely migrate outside of their home range" ("Social Structure", n.d.). Moreover, the primate communities "usually avoid each other and are aggressive towards outsiders" ("Social Structure", n.d.). But Chimpanzees are not like that. It must be noted that "When chimpanzees from different troops come together, there is often an exciting, friendly encounter lasting several hours, following which, some of the adult females switch groups" ("Social Structure", n.d.). And such a behavior indicates that there is a strong sense of communication between chimpanzees and this inclination towards communicating properly might also have convinced Boysen to select chimpanzees as her subjects of research and try to teach them the processes through which they can communicate with human beings.