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Cross Species Research

Language Development


  • Noam Chomsky has done numerous comparisons of humans to other species in regards to language.
  • Clearly, as humans, we have a linguistic ability much superior to that of other mammals.
  • Also, our general rules regarding language and symbols cannot be found in any other species.

An example to help prove this theory is to try and teach a chimpanzee signs that meant "brown house."
The chimpanzee would not have all the innate knowledge described above which is present in all humans.
Also, this process would involve much teaching and learning before a chimp could learn the signs, whereas humans acquire such knowledge with very little effort taking place at all.


Nim Chimsky

  • Noam Chomsky's theory was supported by what they call the "Nim Project," a chimpanzee named after Noam Chomsky.
  • Nim Chimpsky (1973-2000) learned sign and verbal language, but only exhibited 25-125 words.
  • Nim's longest recorded utterance was "Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you."
  • This project was led at Columbia University by Herbert S. Terrace, and him and his colleagues concluded that Nim did not show any meaningful sequential behaviour that rivaled human grammar.