Edinburgh Research Explorer

Dendrophobia in bonobo comprehension of spoken English

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related Edinburgh Organisations

Open Access permissions



  • Download as Adobe PDF

    Rights statement: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Truswell, R. (2017), Dendrophobia in Bonobo Comprehension of Spoken English. Mind Lang, 32: 395–415. , which has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mila.12150/abstract. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

    Accepted author manuscript, 138 KB, PDF document

    Licence: Unspecified

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-415
JournalMind and Language
Issue number4
Early online date23 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2017
EventEVOLANG XI - University of Southern Mississippi, New Orleans, United States
Duration: 20 Mar 201624 Mar 2016


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.




New Orleans, United States

Event: Conference

Download statistics

No data available

ID: 19347812