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.


American Sign Language Human Language Perceptual Category Grammatical Category Syntactic Rule 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Further reading

  1. Chomsky N (1975): Reflections on Language. New York: Random House.Google 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 Press.Google 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 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Premack

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