Re: References to apes talking to themselves

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Tue, 22 Jun 1999 08:23:29 +0200

From: <>
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 1999 08:23:29 +0200
Subject: Re: References to apes talking to themselves

Great examples Mark, thanks.
But I was asking for chimps without learned language talking to themselves.
After you learned them words, they can talk to themselves. How would they do
without words? I can't imagine.

We have a tame magpie now at home. Whenever he is engaged in new discoveries
(and on his own) all kinds of funny noises are made, a vocabulary of at least
15 different sounds. Not when Nero (that's the name) notices that he is
observed however.
Is this talking to himself? I'd swear, but there can't be much structured
thought in it, I guess.

Mark Mills wrote:

> As promised, here are some references to apes talking to themselves after
> acquiring a human sign system:
> 1. Apes, Language, and the Human Mind, by E. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Stuart
> Shanker, Talbot J. Taylor, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, 288 pages (June 1998)
> With photos of Kanzi talking to himself [pg 50-52]:
> "Kanzi also talks to himself, particularly at nap time or other quiet
> periods of the day. He does this by picking up the keyboard [Kanzi talks
> by pointing to icons on a board], moving a short distance away from the
> rest of the group and turning his back. He then scans the board and
> touches particular lexigrams. If I try to look over his shoulder to see
> what he is saying, he generally picks up the keyboard and moves further
> away. At times, he touches symbols, then glances over his shoulder to
> look at me, as though he wants me to see that he is talking, but does not
> want me to see what he is saying. Occasionally, I can catch glimpses of
> his comments, but if I try to talk about it with him, or make a comment
> on what his is saying, he seems to find this disturbing and he will
> either quit talking to himself or move completely out of sight. When I
> do catch a glimpse of his monologues, I frequently see him pointing to
> the lexigrams 'good' and 'bad.' He also talks about his 'ball,' his
> favorite foods, places he likes to go and about tickling, grabbing and
> biting.
> When the lexigrams 'good' and 'bad' were first placed on Kanzi's
> keyboard, I did not think he would use them frequently, or with intent. I
> put them on so that everyone would have a clear way of indicating to
> Kanzi when we felt that he was being good or bad. To my surprise, Kanzi
> was intrigued with these lexigrams and soon began using them to indicate
> his intent to be good or bad, as well as to comment on his previous
> actions as 'good' or 'bad.' When he was about to do things that he knew
> we did not want him to do, he started saying 'bad, bad, bad' before he
> did them, as though threatening to do something he was not supposed to
> do. He would for example, announce his intent to be bad before biting a
> hole in his ball, tearing up the telephone, or taking an object away from
> someone."
> 2. Next of Kin : What Chimpanzees Have Taught Me About Who We Are, by
> Roger Fouts, Stephen Tukel Mills (Contributor), Jane Goodall
> (Introduction), 420 pages (October 1997)
> Lots of examples of Washoe talking to herself. Here is just one, (pg 71):
> "A prominent philosopher of science named Ron Harre was in residence at
> Reno as a visiting professor from that bastion of Cartesianism, Oxford
> University. Harre was renting a house near the Gardners and every day he
> drove by Washoe's backyard to get to campus. One morning he noticed
> something rather strange in the Gardners' willow tree. he parked his car
> and got out to take a closer look. Sure enough, it was Washoe, but she
> wasn't surveying the neighborhood as she usually did. Instead she was
> lounging in the branches, leafing through the pages of a magazine,
> signing to herself as she identified various objects in the photos and
> advertisements. The sight of a chimpanzee talking to herself, thinking
> out loud like a person, left Harre shaken."
> Here is another one that is pretty funny, (pg 157):
> [Note: DIRTY has earlier been used during Washoe's toilet training, as in
> DIRTY WASHOE signed when Washoe failed to use the toilet or soiled her
> diapers]
> "By strange coincidence, around this same time, Washoe also began
> referring to her adversaries in scatological terms. (I guess this is not
> uniquely human.) Her cursing started when [center director] Lemmon
> brought in some new, rather territorial, residents to the pig barn
> [domicile for various primates]: monkeys. One monkey, a rhesus, always
> greeted Washoe and me by baring his teeth and threat-barking in defense
> of his space, causing Washoe to swagger back at him. To ease the
> strained relations I decided to teach Washoe the sign for MONKEY. I
> pointed at the rhesus and signed MONKEY. Washoe promptly stormed over to
> the angry rhesus and started signing DIRTY MONKEY. After this, Washoe
> took to using DIRTY as an adjective to describe any bad person who didn't
> give her what she wanted. For instance, if she signed ROGER OUT ME,
> wanting to leave the island, and I replied SORRY, YOU MUST STAY THERE,
> she would respond with DIRTY ROGER over and over again as she walked
> away."
> The Education of Koko, by Francine Patterson, Eugene Linden 224 pages
> (1981)
> Descriptions of Koko talking to herself: pg 134-135, 137-138.
> ===============================================================
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Mario Vaneechoutte
Department Clinical Chemistry, Microbiology & Immunology
University Hospital
De Pintelaan 185
9000 GENT
Phone: +32 9 240 36 92
Fax: +32 9 240 36 59

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