Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Koko the Gorilla

In lecture today Professor Freccero showed some videos on Koko, a gorilla who is famous for learning sign language. Koko was taught sign language around a year old and now she is in her forties. She can speak more than a thousand words in sign language and can understand around two thousand English words. Dr Penny Patterson was working on her PhD in developmental psychology at Stanford University when she came across Koko at the San Francisco Zoo as a baby. Deciding to write her dissertation on the linguistic capacities of gorillas she began to study Koko and this turned into a lifelong project for her.

Giving a gorilla the ability to communicate with humans has allowed humans to see that other species have the capacity for language, as well as allowing us to see more through their eyes. We also have seen Koko express grief, both over her pet kitten dying, as well as her mourning Robin Williams, whom Koko met in 2001.

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