Use of Language in Primates

Essay by captainoats17University, Bachelor'sA, February 2008

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Justin Yoshida

Ms. Caroline Martin

Soc 216 / Cultural Anthropology

February 12, 2008

Ape Language

As humans, we have often divided ourselves from the rest of the creatures that live alongside us on this planet due to the fact that we obtain the gift of speech. This alone has paved the way for us to have many of the capacities that we possess today which strengthen our division from the animal world. Yes, animals have forms of language or communication of their own, however it is not verbal like that of a human. This major assertion of division put in place by humans has recently come into question due to the rising claims of researchers who have found extraordinary linguistic capabilities in primates. However, in order to really understand this possibility of language in primates we must first examine the root and origin of language itself. In doing so, we cannot only learn more about the primate's adaptation to it but our own capabilities as well.

To begin with, what is language and how does it differ from other forms of communication? This is that root of the problem with the use of language in primates because of its uncertain definition. There is no universal explanation of language or what constitutes its existence. This is the basis for disagreement on whether or not primates can use language. Language itself consists of various facets and some people say that anything that a primate can learn is not language. In examining the communication used in primates, one must first gain an understanding of general primate communication. Unlike monkeys, most primates live rather quiet lives. They do not use or depend on calls and cries to maintain harmony in their group. Primates utilize olfactory, tactile, and visual communication as well as a minimal...