The Third Chimpanzee: the Evolution and Future of the Human Animal - Chapter 8, Bridges to Human Language Summary & Analysis

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Language is considered by most scientists to be uniquely human - humans use language, animals do not. The author considers this common bias from an evolutionary perspective and largely rejects the premise that language is unique to humans. Many animals and most mammals use vocalizations; clearly, they convey some sense of meaning. Vervet monkeys have been studied in detail and have been found to have a rudimentary suite of vocalizations that can be classified as a type of grammar-less word; ten individual words have been identified. A few captive gorillas and chimpanzees have been taught to use various non-vocal systems to communicate with sign or symbol languages. Thus, the author argues that language is not unique to humans, though humans clearly employ it to a degree that is unique.

Human language is incredibly complex, with numerous rules...

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