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The Domestication of LanguageCultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal$
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Daniel Cloud

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231167925

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231167925.001.0001

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The Strange Case of the Chimpanzee

The Strange Case of the Chimpanzee

Chapter:
(p.113) 5 The Strange Case of the Chimpanzee
Source:
The Domestication of Language
Author(s):

Daniel Cloud

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231167925.003.0005

This chapter focuses on the chimpanzee's two distinct systems of communication: vocal signals and their use of gestures, like holding up a cupped hand to beg or raising one arm to initiate play. The existence of two systems with very similar functions, two distinct systems of Skyrmsian signals, one innate and the other learned, might be thought of as creating a Darwinian redundancy that would permit the function of one of the two to diverge in an unexpected direction. The second system of signals seems like exactly the sort of thing that evolution might easily have grabbed hold of, in a descendant of the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, and turned into something new, into a more human kind of language. If that's what happened, then understanding the two end points of the process is the best way of understanding the transition, and that makes understanding what chimpanzees do with their gestures rather urgent.

Keywords:   chimpanzees, human language, Brian Skyrms, communication, gestures, vocal signals, signalling

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