Language is all that Seperates Animals from Humans
For thousands of years humans have wrestled with the question of their "human" nature. Most often they have defined themselves in relation to the animal kingdom, yearning either to take on some of the superior attributes of other animals or to rise above their own animal nature by becoming angelic. And thus they define themselves as a special sort of unique creation. Our magnificent and intricate minds have given human kind the gift of specialized speech and communication, which we call language. And this brings us the question, is language the only true barrier that sets us apart from animals?
Language is more than verbal communication, but defining precisely when animals are exhibiting that "something more" is a source of debate. What seems to set human language apart from the gestures, grunts, chirps, whistles, or cries of otheg animals is grammar-a formal set of rules for combining words. Using the rules of grammar, people can take a relatively small number of words and create an almost infinite number of uniques sentences. People can learn to apply the rules of grammar-but can animals?
THere have been several attempts to teach human-like languages to members of other species, none has teached a level of conberstional ability that would answer this question directly. A great deal of language-related work has been done with parrots and dolphins. Dolphins have been especially helpful because of their complex communication system and large brains. Furthermore, such approaches are generally focused to those animals most like us, particularly the great apes.
Because of the maturity of Chimpanzees and gorillas, they have been the most popular targets of study. They are estimated to have the intelligence or two- or three-year-old children, who are usually well on their way to learning language. The study of gorilla learning sheds light on the important connection between gorillas and their sibling species, Homo sapiens. This next information is based on gathered information from Koko the gorilla's personal website and found that Project Koko has contributed to the study of the evolution and development of human communication.
THe well-known gorilla, Koko, has been a case study of her intellectual, physical and linguistic development since her infancy. Koko, a female lowland gorilla born in 1971, uses American Sign Language and understands spoken English. Koko's participation in the study began when she was one year old.
THe study is known as The Gorilla Language Project, which is both an effort to gather data about gorilla language and a case...