Animal Learning & Behavior

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 1–14

Elements of syntax in the systems of three language-trained animals


DOI: 10.3758/BF03199424

Cite this article as:
Kako, E. Animal Learning & Behavior (1999) 27: 1. doi:10.3758/BF03199424


Which properties of syntax are uniquely human, and which can be acquired by other animals? Relevant evidence is provided by work with three language-trained animals: the African gray parrot Alex, who can produce and comprehend a small fragment of English; the bottle-nosed dolphins Ake and Phoenix, who can comprehend a gestural and an acoustic language, respectively; and the bonobo Kanzi, who can produce combinations of lexigrams and comprehend a significant fragment of English. The systems of these animals are examined for evidence of four core properties of syntax: discrete combinatorics, category-based rules, argument structure, and closed-class items. Additional studies that explore further what these animals can learn about these core properties are suggested.

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia

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