Click to view Janni Pedersen is one of the only linguists in the world whose research focuses on a non-human language. The Iowa State University researcher at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa, US, studies the language capabilities of bonobos, especially ones who have been trained to communicate with humans. Like chimps, bonobos can learn to communicate with humans using objects or hand gestures that correspond to words or ideas. And now Pedersen has just published a paper in the Journal of Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science that shows bonobos communicate more like humans than we thought. After poring over hours of videotaped footage of bonobos communicating with humans, Pedersen determined that the creatures do two human-like things when they talk. First, they take turns: The bonobo waits for the human to stop talking before it tries to communicate. Second, they use language to get what they want. In one case Pedersen studied, a bonobo repeatedly asked to be picked up when she was around a dog she disliked. Eventually, she talked her human companion into picking her up, thus taking her out of the orbit of the annoying dog. Great Ape Trust bonobo research director William Fields said he's excited about Pedersen's work, and that there's more research like it to come:
These papers will eventually be assembled in a larger volume to look at issues in the development of forgiveness and other cultural dimensions of the apes' lives.
OK I'm ready for chimps that use sign language and bonobos that communicate with objects. But I'm not really ready for apes to have "forgiveness and other cultural dimensions." I'm cool with unforgiving apes, as long as they are supergiant and beat the crap out of dinosaurs. Linguistic Tools [via Science Daily]