Dr Zanna Clay, Durham University: "Natural communication in our great ape relative, the bonobo: Insights into the evolution of language" Departmental Seminar Series 2017/18
Hosted by Professor Sotaro Kita
Refreshments in Common room at 3.30pm
Natural communication in our great ape relative, the bonobo: Insights into the evolution of language
Our capacity for language is a central aspect of what it means to be human and sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Given that language does not fossilize, one way to understand how and when it first evolved is to examine the communicative capacities of our closest living relatives, the great apes. In this talk, I will review my recent research that explores natural communication in our least understood but closest living relative, the bonobo (Pan paniscus). I will primarily focus on what natural bonobo communication can tell us about their underlying social awareness and how this relates to the evolution of language. I report findings that highlight considerable communicative complexity, flexibility, and intentionality which, cumulatively, suggest that many of the building blocks for language are deeply rooted in our primate past.