Re: Paper on chimp culture

Mark M. Mills (
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 14:11:58 -0400

Date: Thu, 24 Jun 1999 14:11:58 -0400
From: "Mark M. Mills" <>
Subject: Re: Paper on chimp culture
In-Reply-To: <>


At 08:15 AM 6/22/99 +0200, you wrote:

>Mark,the distinction between symbolic language we use and body and vocal
>of animals has long been settled. I think it is useless to debate this.

I'm puzzled that you feel so strongly about the uniqueness of human
symbolic processing. Generally, the 'small and incremental change'
perspective is presumed 'the best guess' until proven otherwise.

I'm puzzled that I posted references to pro-chimp language books published
in the late 90s, but you state 'the distinction ... has long been settled.'
I don't understand why you want to close off discussion.

Here is another reference. This one was written in 1995. It is rather
dismissive of chimp language research, but it comments upon the continuing
interest. It mentions continuing research and allows for the possibility
that new understandings might develop.

My hypothesis regarding chimp communication ability may be entirely wrong,
but I'm just looking for useful evolutionary models for getting human
culture from an ancient primate culture. My model is just a variation on
your 'singing ape' hypothesis. I reverse the causality, saying we 'talk
because ancient primates thought.' Your hypothesis suggests 'we think
because ancient primates sang.' Seems to me there is plenty of room for


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