This Chimpanzee Could Speak In Sign Language

Have you ever wished that you could speak with animals? Language is a unique human trait that connects us to each other and simultaneously separates us from others species. But we all know that some animals seem to understand language- so can any animals communicate with it ? In 1967 two scientists set out to explore language acquisition with our closet non-human relative: a chimpanzee. Their project would go on to revolutionize our understanding of language forever.

In 1965, the US Air Force was focused on obtaining chimpanzees for their space program.  A young female chimpanzee was captured in Africa and brought to the United States. Instead of working with the space program, the chimpanzee was adopted by Allen and Beatrix Gardner, professors at the University of Nevada. They named the young chimpanzee after the country they resided in: Washoe. And Washoe would go on to change how we understand language in chimpanzees and humans forever.

Wikimedia
Wikimedia

The Gardners were interested in language and if non-humans were able to acquire and use it.. With the hope of exploring the acquisition of language in chimpanzees, they established Project Washoe with the goal of teaching Washoe sign language by raising her as a human child (chimpanzees do not have the vocal anatomy to produce spoken language in the same capacity as humans). Just like a typical American child of the time, Washoe had a daily schedule, wore clothing, owned a variety of toys and learned the appropriate etiquette to sit at the dinner table and share a family meal.  She was a chimpanzee who thought she was a human, and through the help of the Gardners and multiple assistants, learned 350 words of sign language.

As Washoe grew older, her caretakers continued the study by introducing new chimpanzee family members, all of whom learned various levels of sign language Washoe was even able to adopt a young male chimpanzee name Loulis, whom she taught sign language to as well. She recognized herself in a mirror and was able to generate novel combinations to describe items that she did not know (calling a swan, a creature she had never seen before, a “water bird”).

Washoe moved from Nevada to Oklahoma, and eventually to Washington where she lived for the rest of her life with her chimpanzee family. She remains the first non-human to acquire and speak sign language, as well as the first non-human to teach sign language to her adopted son, Loulis.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • The Man Who Fought WWII For 30 Years

    The mission was to stay out of sight and collect information about the Allied troop movements. The Location was the island of Lubang in the Philippines. Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda from the Japanese Imperial Army was tasked with a Rambo-like top secret mission: him and his four man team against the world. At least that is...

    Read More
  • Transgender Women Able To Breastfeed

    A transgender woman was able to happily produce healthy milk to feed her partner’s newborn child. A new report that was following the case shows she was able to breastfeed the baby for six weeks without any issues. This is a groundbreaking report and the first medical document of its...

    Read More
  • Your DNA Could Stretch To Pluto And Back Over 17 Times

    The human genome, the genetic code that makes a human well a human is a fascinating science. It continues to open up new doors and understanding about our wellbeing and health. Some things today we still do not fully understand. But what we do know is that the length of all your DNA combined is...

    Read More
  • The Mad Egyptian Pickpocket King

    King Farouk the last ruler of Egypt had an embarrassing and strange problem: he could not stop pickpocketing people. A bit of a bizarre trait for someone who had unlimited wealth, no? In fact, he was he caused so many problems during his monarchy that some people believe he is...

    Read More
  • American Woman Falls Asleep And Wakes Up British!

    For a young woman in Arizona, this suddenly became a reality. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Even though she had never been out of the United States she woke up speaking with a British accent. In 2015, Michelle Myers went to bed early with an extreme headache, just thinking she had a pretty bad migraine. Yet...

    Read More
  • Avicenna The Scientist Responsible For Quarantine

    Avicenna or Abu Ali Sina was a Persian scientist who is seen as one of the greatest thinkers that came out of the Islamic Golden Age. The Islamic Golden Age is an era where the Islamic world flourished, great scientific and economic development was possible and is generally dated from the 8th century all the...

    Read More
  • You Can See An Owl’s Eyeball Through Their Ears

    Ever wanted to see the inside of an owl’s eyeball? No, not really? Well if you did all you would have to do is have a quick peek inside their ears! You can just literally look into the inside of an owl’s head through their ears. Owls, like all birds,...

    Read More
  • Khalid Bin Walid: The Undefeated General

    When you look back at history and try to complete a list of the greatest military commanders. A big win for a potential candidate would, of course, being undefeated. And when you look at that trait the list is very small, in fact, he is one of three and his name is Khalid Bin Walid....

    Read More