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Miles, L. (1990) The cognitive foundations for reference in a signing orangutan. In "Language" and intelligence in monkeys and apes by Parker, S. T. and K. R. Gibson (Eds) 1990. p 511-539.

Jim Davies, 1998, jim@jimdavies.org

Cite this paper for:

This paper focuses on how words became meaningful for Chantek and his cognitive development. (p512)

p511.
It has been found that chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans can represent words and communicate with one another.

Chantek, an orangutan, was trained to use sign language. Chantek learned 140 signs, and made some up himself.

p512
Orangutan abilities have been historically underestimated.

Chantek was raised with a human culture, and taught signs from American Sign Language. The signs were given in english word order, or pidgin Sign English.

p513
Chantek was not exposed to speech for the first several years, but then was.
Chantek was first taught signs by molding, but later by imitation.

Signs were considered an active part of the vocabulary when he used them spontaneously and appropriately on half the days of a given month. Most signs (127) reached this level. This was a compromise between the liberal Terrace et al. (1979) spont. use on 5 consecutive days and the conservative Gardner and Gardner (1969) spont. and appropriate use on 15 consecutive days.

p514
The first signs occurred after one month of enculturation: "food eat" and "drink".

p515
During the study period, he used 1/3 to 1/2 of his signs every day.

p516
Only 22.7% of his signs were to try to get food and drink.

p517
Signs Chantek knew:

objects:

    puppet
    hat
    jacket
    shoe
    straw
    tree
    bed/sleep
    bag
    toilet
    oil
    Beard
    mask
    Ball
    screwdriver
    Q-tip
    car
    money
    ring
    fence
    hair
    house
    bike
    eye-drink
    cup
    box
    toothpaste
    lipstick
    barrel
    earring
Actions:
food-eat
drink
come
brush
tickle
going
go
open
chase
hug
touch
give
listen
share
bed-sleep
piggy-game
smell
bite
break
pick-groom
keep
pull
work
kiss
ride
no-teeth

Foods:
food-eat
nut
candy
banana
raisin
bread
apple
cracker
orange
cereal
ice cream
berry
peach
cheese
meat
corn
butter
yogurt
grape
carrot
cookie
chocolate
jello
egg

Names:
Chantek
Ann
Lyn
Kim
John
Jackie
Richard
Michael
Ray
Rick
Dave
Jeannie

Animals:
dog
cat
monkey
bird
alligator
bug
squirrel
elephant
ape
horse

Drinks:
drink
milk
coke
coffee
water
tea

colors:
orange
red
black
white
green

locatives:
up
point
out
in
down

Other attributes:
dirty
good
bad
hurt

Emphasizers/reoccurrences
more
Hurry
time

Places:
Cadek-Hall
Brock-Hall
yard

Pronouns:
me
you

p516

Like children, Chantek prefers to use a name rather than a pronoun, as the reference is fixed-- even when talking to that person.

p518

Conversations muset have little imitation and lots of spontinaity.
for example, at 26 months, for Nim (A chimp in another research lab) and Chantek:
 
 
Nim Chantek
imitation rate 38% 3%
spontinaity rate 4% 49-88%
interrputions of caregiver 35% 8%
interruptions of ape ~18% 9%

p519

Chantel had some interesting grammar.  When the object referred to was present, then the form that of an utterance would be object-GIVE, but when the object was not present, then the form would be GIVE-object.

524

Representations must have at least these things:

  1. Must designate an element in the real world
  2. There must be a shared cultural understanding of its meaning
  3. Sign must be used intentionally to convey meaning›
Savage-Rumbaugh (1983) said that apes and kids do not go through similar stages of referential development.
But Chantek seemed to go through these stages, beginning with protodeclarative.

The Protodeclarative Stage (has 4 substages)

  1. exhibiting self (drawing attention to oneself)
  2. sharing objects
  3. giving objects
  4. indicative pointing (tickle me here; take me there)
p525

Chantek began to use attributes: "Red bird" and "white cheese food eat."
You can find out what an ape means when a sign is used by looking at the context in which the sign was used.
Results of studies of this sort show that most of Chantek's signs came to mean the normal adult meanings.
Chantek overgeneralized in interesting ways, too. For example, he used the sign "lyn" for all caregivers, but never to strangers.

p527

Chantek used to use the word "dirty" to refer to bad things, until he learned the word for bad. Then he started using bad, and dirty changed its meaning to be more like the real meaning.

p528

He used "open" to mean moving large objects.  There are several other examples of overgeneralization.
Referring to things that are not present is called "displacement." Chantek did this often. At 8 years of age, 38% of his signings showed displacement.

p529. Deception is also an important part of language development. Chantek made about three deceptions per week. There are some interesting examples in the paper.

p530. Though he wasn't taught to do it, sometimes Chantek would sign with his feet. This is evidence for a mental representation of an image of signs. Chantek had a strong left hand bias in signing.

p531. Chantek's freestyle drawings resembled those of a three year old.

p532. Chantek was given a series of cognitive tests. On one of them, at age 4.5 he scored like an 18-24 month old human.

p533: Language tests such as Miller's suggest that Chantek had entered  Piaget's sensorimotor stage.  There is some evidence that he entered the preoperational stage. 
 

Summary author's notes:


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