Spontaneous symbol acquisition and communicative use by pygmy chimpanzees (Pan paniscus)

Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Kelly McDonald, Rose A. Sevcik, William D. Hopkins, Elizabeth Rubert
1986 Journal of experimental psychology. General  
Two pygmy champanzees (Pan paniscus) have spontaneously begun to use symbols to communicate with people. In contrast to common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) using the same communicative system, the pygmy chimpanzees did not need explicit training in order to form referential symbolobject associations. Instead, they acquired symbols by observing others use these symbols in daily communications with them. In addition, the pygmy chimpanzees have begun to comprehend spoken English words and can
more » ... h words and can readily identify lexigrams upon hearing the spoken words. By contrast, common chimpanzees who received similar exposure to spoken English are unable to do so. The older pygmy chimpanzee has begun to form requests of the form agent-verb-recipient in which he is neither the agent nor the recipient. By contrast, similarly aged common chimpanzees limited their requests to simple verbs, in wihch the agent was always presumed to be the addressee and the chimpanzee itself was always the recipient, thus they had no need to indicate a specific agent or recipient. These results suggest that these pygmy chimpanzees exhibit symbolic and auditory perceptual skills that are distinctly different from those of common chimpanzees. 40
doi:10.1037/0096-3445.115.3.211 fatcat:udg22aurnngxbbe4itdr4rzyie