Re: Paper on chimp culture

Lawrence H. de Bivort (
Mon, 21 Jun 1999 16:13:54 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 16:13:54 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Lawrence H. de Bivort" <>
To: Memetics List <>
Subject: Re: Paper on chimp culture
In-Reply-To: <>

On Sun, 20 Jun 1999, Mark Mills wrote:

>On the other hand, one could do memetic studies on chimp language use.
>How much effort is required to produce 100 word vocabularies in humans?
>in chimps? How many words does a human mother transfer to her baby in
>one year? How many signs does a signing chimp mother transfer? Does
>memetic agility measured by vocabulary size produce selective advantage
>for a chimp culture? What is the average 'life span' of a chimp generated
>sign? How quickly do chimps 'mutate' signs?

These questions tackle the issue of language transfer. I don't think that
that is quite the same as the transfer of an 'idea' or 'belief', which is
at the heart of memes. As we use the term, a meme is a 'belief' that is
framed in such a way that it is self-disseminating. The dissemination of a
word or phrase would not be, as we see it, an automatic demonstration of a
meme at work, though one might well scan disseminated language patterns to
see if any represented a meme at work.

Lawrence de Bivort
The Memetics Group

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