Dendrophobia in bonobo comprehension of spoken English

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Abstract / Description of output

Comparative data from Savage-Rumbaugh et al. (1993) concerning the comprehension of spoken English requests by a bonobo (Kanzi) and a human infant (Alia) is consistent with Fitch’s (2014) hypothesis that humans exhibit dendrophilia, or a propensity to infer and manipulate hierarchical tree structures to a greater extent than other species. This body of data avoids many pitfalls in interpreting results of relevant Artificial Grammar Learning experiments, and therefore complements those experiments. However, findings from language acquisition suggest that the term dendrophilia is misleading, in that human infants do not show an initial preference for certain hierarchical syntactic structures. Infants are slow to acquire and generalize the hierarchical structures in question, but they can eventually do so. Kanzi, in contrast, is dendrophobic: even though his nonhierarchial strategy impairs comprehension, he never acquires the hierarchical structure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-415
JournalMind and Language
Issue number4
Early online date23 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2017
EventEVOLANG XI - University of Southern Mississippi, New Orleans, United States
Duration: 20 Mar 201624 Mar 2016


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