Nonverbal Talk

I was as intrigued by what Gary Marcus didn't say in his Research Vision article1 as by what he did say. Specifically, how might his arguments be modified if non-human primate communication is largely nonverbal?Roger Fouts of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, Central Washington University, told me of an instance in which video data capture revealed two adolescent chimpanzees signaling and accepting an invitation to play with a half-second rise of both eyebrows (private communicat

The Scientist Staff
Jul 18, 2004
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I was as intrigued by what Gary Marcus didn't say in his Research Vision article1 as by what he did say. Specifically, how might his arguments be modified if non-human primate communication is largely nonverbal?

Roger Fouts of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, Central Washington University, told me of an instance in which video data capture revealed two adolescent chimpanzees signaling and accepting an invitation to play with a half-second rise of both eyebrows (private communication, 2001). In Homo sapiens one thinks of facial expressions, or even the evocative power of the raised middle finger – what a friend's 5-year-old son calls 'le mauvais doit.' Has it been considered that the genes governing nonlinguistic communication may still be largely or completely identical among bonobos, chimpanzees, and us? Perhaps the spoken word represents only a small fraction of the linguistic common ground we share with the pongids?

William Illsey...

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