Intelligent Apes Understand Language

Koko the Gorilla isn’t the only Ape that understands language. Bonobos Kanzi and Panbanisha might have the highest level of language comprehension ever seen in non-humans.

1. Kanzi Understands Spoken Language

In this clip, Primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh holds head-phones to Kanzi’s ears, playing a recording of a word that corresponds to an item on Kanzi’s Lexigram board.

Sue cannot hear the words that are being read to Kanzi, so she checks an ordered set of cards to confirm that Kanzi has pressed the right button.

2. Kanzi and Novel Sentences

In this exercise, Sue holds a welder’s mask to her face so that she can’t give any obvious nonverbal clues as to what objects she’s referring.

Kanzi seems to demonstrate an understanding of a wide range of nouns, verbs, and their relationships sufficient to carry out requests given in new phrases he may not have heard before.

3. Kanzi’s Sister Panbanisha Understands Language

4. Kanzi The Toolmaker

Kanzi demonstrates his ability to make stone tools, a skill that he learned by observing human researchers.

5. Bonobos: Language Recognition, Play

clip from the BBC Documentary Chimps Are People Too

6. Kanzi Talks To Lisa Ling On Oprah

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