You are here: Home Publications Moving beyond ‘meaning’: Gorillas combine gestures into sequences for creative display

Moving beyond ‘meaning’: Gorillas combine gestures into sequences for creative display

Tanner, J. E., & Perlman, M. (2016). Moving beyond ‘meaning’: Gorillas combine gestures into sequences for creative display. Language & Communication. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.langcom.2016.10.006.
The great apes produce gestures intentionally and flexibly, and sometimes they combine their gestures into sequences, producing two or more gestures in close succession. We reevaluate previous findings related to ape gesture sequences and present qualitative analysis of videotaped gorilla interaction. We present evidence that gorillas produce at least two different kinds of gesture sequences: some sequences are largely composed of gestures that depict motion in an iconic manner, typically requesting particular action by the partner; others are multimodal and contain gestures – often percussive in nature – that are performed in situations of play or display. Display sequences seem to primarily exhibit the performer’s emotional state and physical fitness but have no immediate functional goal. Analysis reveals that some gorilla play and display sequences can be 1) organized hierarchically into longer bouts and repetitions; 2) innovative and individualized, incorporating objects and environmental features; and 3) highly interactive between partners. It is illuminating to look beyond ‘meaning’ in the conventional linguistic sense and look at the possibility that characteristics of music and dance, as well as those of language, are included in the gesturing of apes.
About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands


Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213
E-mail:   


Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn