This week saw the death of Dar, a chimpanzee who was taught American Sign Language.

With the passing of more and more of these animals, it’s time to look at the future of ape language research. What was this work intended to prove, anyway? And are these apes really communicating, or are they just doing complicated tricks for treats?

Linguist Daniel Midgley swings in for this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Show notes

Dar the chimpanzee has passed away.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2238459/Dar-chimpanzee-learned-sign-language-dies-aged-36.html
http://www.king5.com/community/blogs/the-pet-dish/Central-Washington-University-chimp-who-learned-sign-language-dies-180759431.html

From the Friends of Washoe
http://www.friendsofwashoe.org/

A good skeptical rundown of ape language projects, from Skeptic Magazine, no less.
http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-10-31/

Herbert Terrace concluded that Nim Chimpsky’s signs were just imitations.
http://kanzi.bvu.edu/Nimvideos2.html

Noam Chomsky has some characteristically tart comments about Nim and ape language projects.
http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/2007—-.htm