"What is ape language and why does it matter" It is the study of whether or not our closest living relatives, the great apes, can acquire language. Why does it matter" It matters for many reasons, the first of which is that it has forced humans to actually try and determine what language really was. Was it just words and grammar, or fundamentally something much deeper" Did we require the capacity to reason in order for us to have language" Or in acquiring language from our culture, did we also acquire the capacity to reason, to think and finally to assume moral responsibility for all of our actions" Did language enable us to become cultural beings, or was it culture itself that enabled us to acquire language"
"Second, it matters because we divide our categories of our natural world into those of man, animal, vegetable and mineral. Man is the singular creature with reason, rights and morality. Animals are creatures that lack these capacities and can therefore be bought and sold as property, farmed and manufactured as 'products' just as can objects, minerals, etc.
"Man was credited with the capacities of reason and morality because he had language and because he makes the tools. These became objects which he sold and traded as commodities. If animals were to have language and were to make tools if they were found to reason and think and to express their intentions, plans and goals, could we continue to trade them as commodities"
"By dividing the world into four categories of things man, animal, vegetable, mineral we thus determined how we should treat that world in which we lived. We make it natural or "common sense" to conclude that anything non-man should fall into a different class of things and, therefore, justifiably be treated differently than ourselves. Categories matter.
"But our man/animal distinction may be fatally flawed. The more scientists come to learn and understand the great
|Contact: Al Setka|
Great Ape Trust of Iowa