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Why Were Projects Funded to Teach the Equivalent of Human Language to Primates?

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  • Essay length: 1856 words
  • Submitted: 11/07/2002
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AS and A Level Language: Context, Genre & Frameworks

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Why Were Projects Funded to Teach the Equivalent of Human Language to Primates?

Describe a variety of such projects, indicating how and why they differed, and discuss the conclusions that were/may be drawn from the results.

The capacity for language is thought by many people to be a trait unique to the human race. Through language we can express an infinite number of thoughts and ideas; describe impossible events or inform people of our deepest emotions and most profound imaginings. The gap between humans and animals can be said to be represented by the gap between mere communication and the intricacies of language. But, if animals could be taught language, what implications would this have on our opinion of our unique humanness? As man's closest evolutionary relative, chimpanzees share 98.4%1 of our DNA - indeed, they are more closely related to mankind than they are to gorillas2. Could they also share our ability to conceive and comprehend language? The ability of these primates to understand our language would have a profound effect on our understanding of the evolution of the human race and, particularly, the human mind. This could also result in beneficial changes to the way in

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