Monkeying Around

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Monkeys are used in many different ways in today’s cultural. Monkeys are in zoos for amusement, experiments for social research and they are even used as services animals. While they can be extremely mean in the wild or even in zoos monkeys are actually quite smart.

Monkeys are able to be taught American Sign Language and other hand gestures in order to communicate with humans. In the 1970s a chimp named Nim became the first of his breed to learn sign language.

“By that time, Nim had learned about 125 signs. But the question remained: Was he really learning language? Terrace doubts it. He says that while watching a video of Nim signing with a teacher, he realized that the chimp was tracking most of his teacher’s signs, imitating most of them, but he almost never made a sign spontaneously. In the end, Terrace came to believe that Chomsky was right, that Nim would never use language the way humans do — to form sentences and express ideas.”

After Nim there was Koko the gorilla she was born in 1971 and was raised as a domestic animal as she was taught to communicate with humans.

“Beginning when Koko was one year old, psychologist Francine “Penny” Patterson taught the gorilla signs from American sign language; Patterson eventually credited Koko with learning a vocabulary of over 1000 signs.”

All in all it seems that chimpanzees have a hard time learning sign language and communication skills but gorillas are able to grasp it.

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