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Gardner and Gardner

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Hereward Campbell-Anderson Gardner and Gardner Study Essay For comparison with the Gardner and Gardner study I have researched two other studies on language acquisition. These were of 'Kanzi' by Savage-Rumbaugh, started in 1980 (and still going) and of 'Nim Chimpsky' by Terrace in 1983. Nim Chimpsky was experimented with because Terrace had seen videos of Washoe's 'communication' and was sceptical toward its reliability. Terrace decided to re-do the study himself using the same methods but observing and judging the results more strictly. Terrace attempted to teach Nim American Sign Language in a deaf environment (so as to avoid alienating the ape with verbal language which might inhibit its learning). Terrace used the 'moulding and imitation' method as had been used with Washoe. This entailed teaching Nim to imitate his experimenters by moulding his hands with theirs to match the correct sign. He was trained from the age of 9 months and Terrace was determined to make his experiment stricter than Gardner and Gardners'. During the 44 month duration of Nim's training he seemed to learn over 125 signs. Most of these signs were proper nouns but he also learned many verbs and adjectives as well as a small number of pronouns and propositions. ...read more.


He also demonstrated unequivocal understanding of thousands of spoken sentences with complex structures including embedded phrases, pronouns, case markers and absent referents. Although Savage Rumbaugh believed that Kanzi was communicating for his own choice critics argue that he had little or no idea of what the experimenters were saying and was not using the signs symbolically. According to Savage-Rumbaugh, Kanzi's linguistic ability was tested as being the same as a two year old child's. Kanzi also used the same techniques of communication as Barret found in human children in 1989. Both children and Kanzi used real words as well as 'non-real' words. Gardner and Gardner recorded that Washoe babbled (non-words) as children do, using untaught signs to communicate certain desires. Words were used expressively and directedly. Nelson, in 1973, found that human children within the two year age bracket had a larger receptive vocabulary than expressive vocabulary. This is to say they understood more words than they could express. Kanzi was tested to understand 500 words, but could only use 200. Gardner and Gardner also believed that Washoe understood more signs than she could produce. ...read more.


It could be simply that Bonobo apes have a more innate capability toward language. Savage-Rumbaugh went on to study more Bonobos, which she believed all produced better results than Nim and Washoe. It seems to me that if a two year old child does something, it is called child language whereas if an ape is tested to definitely do the same thing, it is not called language. I believe we call what human infants communicate as initial language because we know that ultimately they shall grow to be fully grown human beings, using full blown human language. We also know that apes shall never grow up to be adult users of language and so there is an unfair bias in the interpretation of the data concerning language acquisition in relation to apes. Although there has been extensive research carried out on how children acquire language, 'language acquisition' is a part of psychology. Psychology, by definition, is not a science. No one can be certain as to how children acquire language and so no one can be certain as to how or if apes can acquire it. It seems to me that tests on the ability to recognise and apply language are the only reliable indicators for whether it is present. ...read more.

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