Prevalent Scientific Connections

Koko the Gorilla using Sign Language

The human race, or species, is the only group with the biological capacity to speak the complex systems of words we call languages. While animals, especially complex and intelligent animals like dolphins and great apes, have simple or even complex modes of communication, none of them have the ability to speak words. Much of human society's progression can be attributed to language, because it is the element that preserves an links technology, literature, art, and other concepts from one generation to another, as they become increasingly complex.

Some species of animals that demonstrate the behavioral capacity of intellectual insight have been able to communicate coherent thoughts to humans, namely chimpanzees and apes. Through assistive technology, monkeys and apes have learned to learn human languages, process them, and use technology to express their thoughts (How Animals). The following video clip from Time Magazine illustrates such an ability: How Animals Learn Language. Although certain animals are able to learn and communicate with vast vocabularies, actual physical linguistic ability is reserved for only the human species.

Parrots, also highly intelligent creatures, have been shown to be able to vocalize expressions in human languages. Irene Pepperberg, a Harvard University graduate, conducted a series of experiments in which her parrot, Alex, was taught English lessons and illustrated an ability to communicate his thoughts, to an extent, through the English language (Morell). The following web link provides the full National Geographic article about this phenomena: Animal Minds - Parrot Communicates In English

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Key Questions:
  1. What are languages, and what role do languages play in cultures?
  2. Why are languages distributed the way they are?
  3. How do languages diffuse?
  4. What role does language play in making places?

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