Language, Nonhuman

  • David Premack
Part of the Readings from the Encyclopedia of Neuroscience book series (REN)


Attempts to teach language to nonhuman species have been unsuccessful; in 15 years of experimentation no nonhuman has acquired a language comparable to human language. This is not entirely a surprise, for even humans who are deficient in language cannot be taught normal human language. When children who do not acquire language in the first place and adults who acquire but then lose language through neurological damage are trained with the same procedures used with the apes, both apes and humans learn a similar system, one in which there is no evidence of grammatical classes, syntactic rules, recursion, structure-dependent rules—properties which set human language apart.

Further reading

  1. Chomsky N (1975): Reflections on Language. New York: Random HouseGoogle Scholar
  2. Pinker S (1979): Formal models of language learning. Cognition 7:217–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Premack D (1986): Gavagai! or the Future History of the Animal Language Controversy. Cambridge: MIT PressGoogle Scholar
  4. Wanner E, Gleitman LR, eds (1982): Language Acquisition: The State of the Art. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Premack

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