In the 1950s, a couple raised a chimpanzee, Viki, as a member of his family and systematically tried to teach him to speak. However, Viki only learned four words (“mom”, “dad”, “up” and “cup”).
Sign language Most recent experiments show that apes can learn to use a real language, even if they do not speak it (Miles, 1983). Many apes learned to converse with people through means other than speech; One of them is the American signs language (ASL), which uses Americans widely with hearing disorders. ASL employs a limited number of basic gestural units that are equivalent to sounds in spoken language. These units are combined to form broader words and units.
The first chimpanzee in learning ASL was Washoe, a female that died in 2007, at the age of 42. Captured in West Africa, R. Allen Gardner and Beatrice Gardner, scientists at the University of Nevada in Reno, adopted Washoe in 1966, when she was one year old. Four years later, they moved to Norman, Oklahoma, a farm that later became the Institute for Studies of Primates. The case of Washoe revolutionized the discussion about language learning skills in the apes (Carey, 2007). At first, Washoe lived in a trailer and did not listen to spoken language. The researchers always used ASL to communicate with each other in the presence of it. The chimpanzee gradually acquired a vocabulary of more than 100 signs representing words in English (Gardner, Gardner and Van Cantfort, Eds., 1989). At two years of age, Washoe began to combine up to five signs in rudimentary prayers such as “you, me, go, out, fast”. The second chimpanzee in learning ASL was Lucy, a younger year than Washoe. Lucy died murdered by poachers, in 1986, after she introduced her to “wildlife” in Africa in 1979 (Carter, 1988). From the second day of life, until the transfer of it to Africa, Lucy lived with a family in Norman, Oklahoma. Roger Fouts, a researcher of the aforementioned Institute for Studies of Primates, was two days a week to test and improve knowledge at Lucy ASL. For the rest of the week, Lucy used ASL to converse with her adoptive parents. After acquiring language, Washoe and Lucy showed many human features: they insulted, joking, said lies and tried to teach language to others (FOUTS, 1997). At the institute, when Washoe got angry with her neighbors’ neighbors “dirty monkeys”.