This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Nuts and Bolts: chimp chat.

There are rather a lot of dictionaries in the house.
There are several English dictionaries on every floor, and then there are the foreign dictionaries (which include Hungarian and Ancient Greek).
Not quite fitting into either the English or foreign categories is the Klingon dictionary: I'm not sure I'd class an extra-terrestrial humanoid as merely foreign.
Anyway, now someone has produced another uncategorisable dictionary, and I don't have it. It's very frustrating.
It's a dictionary of chimp.

Young chimpanzees
It only contains sixty six entries consisting mainly of signs.

It was written by Dr Catherine Hobaiter and Professor Richard Byrne of the University of St Andrews, and is published, not as a book, but as an article in the Current Biology journal.
It's the result of the study of eighty Ugandan chimps (so is this purely a Ugandan chimp dictionary? Would a Rwandan chimp speak the same language? I want a whole set!)

 Prof Byrne has said that although it's been known for thirty years that chimps communicate by gestures, this is the first time anyone's bothered to work out what they're saying.

According to Dr Hobaiter, the gestures have the same meaning whoever uses them, which means they work like a conventional human language.

There is still, however, work to do. The some of the gestures seem to have several different meanings, but this might be because there are subtle differences that haven't yet been spotted by humans.

Here, as a public service, are a few bits of chimpanzee.

Groom me - big loud scratch.

Move yourself - directed push; beckon.

Move away - arm swing; hand fling; jump; object shake; punch object or ground; punch other; slap object. know something? That all sounds very like human to me.

Perhaps I don't need a chimpanzee dictionary after all.

But I still want one.

Thing To Do Today: say something in chimpanzee. The word chimpanzee comes from a dialect of Congo.


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