By Pär Segerdahl, William Fields, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh (auth.)
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Additional resources for Kanzi’s Primal Language: The Cultural Initiation of Primates into Language
Language is socially as meaningful as eating together, and we improvise our linguistic interactions just as we improvise our eating. A new way of using a lexigram comes just as naturally as a new way of eating something, or a new way of preparing food. When Par Segerdahl visited the LRC the first time, he and Bill Fields hid a food surprise in the trailer where Par stayed during his visit. Bill told Kanzi about the surprise and said that they would get it for him a little later. About an hour later, Par sits outside Kanzi's enclosure while Kanzi interacts with Clara, one of the LRC caregivers.
When Liz returns and starts opening the box, Panbanisha finds the situation so embarrassing that she pulls a blanket over herself. When asked what Liz wants, she points to the M&M lexigram on her keyboard, thus manifesting her understanding of the difference between Liz's beliefs and the actual content of the box. When similar so-called 'theory of mind' tests are carried out on apes without language, the apes tend to function as bystanders who do not necessarily see the point of the experimenters' actions before their cages.
The purpose of the comparison is to create a vantage point enabling us to see the dimensions of Kanzi's language in his manner of acquiring it. We will now formulate this understanding of Kanzi's language. Here is what we think the above arrangement of facts reveals about the true foundation of LRC work since the day it turned out Kanzi acquired language without training. Language as intrinsic aspect of culture Before Kanzi, researchers tried teaching apes language as if human language were one of the second languages we learn in school.