Linguistic chimp dies

Washoe, a primate pioneer in the study of non-human language acquisition, died Tuesday night (October 30th) of natural causes at her home on the campus of Central Washington University. She was 42 years old. 

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Oct 31, 2007

Washoe, a primate pioneer in the study of non-human language acquisition, died Tuesday night (October 30th) of natural causes at her home on the campus of Central Washington University. She was 42 years old. The chimp was one of the first to learn American Sign Language when, in 1966, University of Nevada researchers Allen and Beatrix Gardner began teaching Washoe to sign. Washoe, who was named after the Nevada county where she lived with the Gardeners until 1970, would eventually acquire a vocabulary purported to consist of more than 200 words. According to the Friends of Washoe website, Washoe knew (among others) the signs for "time," "eat," "who," and "play," which she would use to ask her handlers questions about the day's activities. She also knew the signs for some of her favorite foods, such as bananas and apples. Washoe sparked early debate among other researchers, including MIT's Noam Chomsky...

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