Talking Apes – Ambassadors of the Animal Kingdom in the Human World

  • László Erdős


Humans have always been intrigued by the idea of talking with animals. With Darwinian evolution it became evident that there is no gulf between humans and other animals. Consequently, it seemed logical to assume that some animals may also possess linguistic skills. Since the 1960s, several animals have learned to sign or communicate with an artificial language, demonstrating the continuity between humans and non-human animals. Washoe, Sarah, Kanzi, Nim Chimpsky, Koko, and Chantek are just a few of the most famous ‘talking’ apes.


Signing animals Washoe (chimpanzee) Sarah (chimpanzee) Kanzi (bonobo) Nim Chimpsky Koko (gorilla) Chantek (orang-utan) Roger Fouts Ann and David Premack Sue Savage-Rumbaugh Francine Patterson Lyn Miles 

Worth Reading

  1. Fouts, R., & Mills, S. T. (2003). Next of kin: My conversations with chimpanzees. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  2. Hess, E. (2008). Nim Chimpsky: The chimp who would be human. New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  3. Patterson, F., & Linden, E. (1981). The education of Koko. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  4. Premack, D., & Premack, A. J. (1983). The mind of an ape. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  5. Savage-Rumbaugh, S., & Lewin, R. (1994). Kanzi: The ape at the brink of the human mind. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar

Worth Watching

  1. Kanzi: An Ape of Genius (1993)Google Scholar
  2. Project Nim (2011)Google Scholar
  3. Koko, the Gorilla who Talks (2016)Google Scholar
  4. A Conversation with Koko (1999)Google Scholar
  5. My Wild Affair – The Ape Who Went to College (2013)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • László Erdős
    • 1
  1. 1.MTA-DE Lendület Functional and Restoration Ecology Research Group, DebrecenInstitute of Ecology and Botany MTA Centre for Ecological ResearchVácrátótHungary

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