Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Ape language research provides an opportunity to study empirically the relationship between language and thought, a question notoriously difficult to address. The conclusions reached till also inform theories of language evolution. The research in this dissertation was conducted with language-trained bonobos, Pan paniscus, at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, utilizing a computerized matching method. The data provide evidence that the possession of symbols facilitate categorization of natural categories, a foundation for many cognitive operations. However, the data does not support the theories suggestions a primacy of gestural or other visual communication in the evolution of language. Rather, a multimodal origin of language is more likely. To explain how the ape subjects in this study came to acquire symbolic competencies, social niche construction theory is utilized.
Pedersen, Janni, "The Symbolic Mind: Apes, symbols, and the evolution of language" (2012). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 12430.