Note on these Notes!

I will try to update and supplement these after each remaining class. Consider this a moving target up to the last exam. I will try to date each revision on the primate page itself. I will also be incorporating links as I have time.

week 13

4/09 exam 3
4/11 videos

Can chimps Talk? (Nova)

Kanzi starring in "Can chimps talk?" See the transcript in video notes and my comments Note the following points:

relations among humans, bonobo, chimps
training of Kanzi
his language performance


interpretation/comparison of performance

interspecies communication
comprehension MUST precede production
a "pidgin" for here and now activities
"Pidgins" are based on bits and pieces of languages used by individuals who do not share a common language. Recall the discussion of the pidgins developed in the slave colonies in the 17th century in the Language video. Typically they do not have any syntax and few function words. Utterances are just a few "content" words --nouns, verbs, modifiers.
what's missing?
reference to mental states, epistemology, modals, etc.

mostly requests, few questions, etc.

little or no evidence of syntax; no complement clauses, etc. Indeed the entire project, creative aspect of human language (Limber, 1977) seems unique to human use of human language.

chimp aggression toward (fake) leopard

use of "weapons"
innate fear?
mutual support during "attack"
role of habitat in response to leopard

(tree vs savannah chimps responses)

week 14


return exams
Consciousness conference report

Interspecies communication (apes, dolphins, Alex, dogs and apes. See abstracts by Limber, Reiss, Pepperberg, and Savage-Rumbaugh, on primate page.)


See course description. All papers (6-8 pages) need an approved outline, at least 2 references 1994 or later unless Oked by my, and must connect to the relevant course materials as well as relate to human behavior.

human language origins discussion

prerequisites and timing

bipedalism, increase in brain size and reorganization (laterality, >neocortex, radial projections from thalamus, special circuits for language), vocal tract
role of glacial cooling 2-3 mya (Calvin)
one origin theory?
Follows precisely the mDNA story--one small group in Africa were the ancestors of all humans, maybe 200,000-300,000 years ago. All human languages are essentially dialects of each other, just as we know the Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, etc.) are dialects descended from the language of the Romans.
Indo-European (IE)
English belongs to this family which includes nearly all European languages and some northern Indian and Asian dialects as well. IE was spoken around what today is Turkey and Armenia perhaps 5 to 10,000 years ago --before writing was invented less than 5000 years ago.
conditions leading to human language
These include the large brain, etc. above, high degree of pair bonding between M & F, increasingly sophisticated culture where there is a great fitness advantage in early acquistion of the communication system, and the several neotenous features characteristic of human evolution. (See Limber, 1982; Gould, 1977))
synergy between brain, culture, and language.
The human brain evolved and incorporated human language into it (the "Baldwin effect" Limber, 1982; HP).

Human language is a clever compromise with instinctive components dealing with structure and an "open" component -the lexicon-- enabling new topics to be immediately discussed with the introduction of new words into the existing grammatical structures.


overview of remaining topics

sex , reproduction, and parenting

(class, deWaal, Bard, Small, Ackerman/Ellison)

social structures in primates
aggression and competition

(deWaal, Goodall)

broad picture of human evolution

(Gould, Tooby and Devore, HP, TA)

ethical issues in primate research

(Novak & Suomi)


Why sex?

It provides the necessary variation for natural selection to work upon-- whether size and shape of the beaks of Darwin's finches or the diversity of immune systems to protect the species against new strains of bacteria or viruses. Survival of species lies in variation.

Social sexual differences among apes (See Bonobo Sex and Society (by Frans de Waal)
Sexual reproduction and differentiation in mammals (class notes)
Sexual dimorphism (differences in M/F bodies)
Sexual selection (Darwin)