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Theoretical Linguistics

An Open Peer Review Journal

Editor-in-Chief: Krifka, Manfred

Ed. by Gärtner, Hans-Martin

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Formal monkey linguistics: The debate

Philippe Schlenker
  • Corresponding author
  • Département d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut Jean-Nicod (ENS – EHESS – CNRS), Paris, France
  • PSL Research University, Paris, France
  • Department of Linguistics, New York University, New York, NY, USA
  • Email:
/ Emmanuel Chemla
  • PSL Research University, Paris, France
  • Département d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique (ENS – EHESS – CNRS), Paris, France
/ Anne M. Schel
  • Department of Animal Ecology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
/ James Fuller
  • Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  • New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology (NYCEP), New York, NY, USA
  • BCC, City University of New York, Bronx, NY, USA
/ Jean-Pierre Gautier
  • CNRS, Station biologique de Paimpont, Université de Rennes 1, Rennes, France
/ Jeremy Kuhn
  • Département d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut Jean-Nicod (ENS – EHESS – CNRS), Paris, France
  • PSL Research University, Paris, France
/ Dunja Veselinović
  • Department of Linguistics, New York University, New York, NY, USA
/ Kate Arnold
  • Département d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut Jean-Nicod (ENS – EHESS – CNRS), Paris, France
  • School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, St Mary’s Quad, St Andrews, Fife, UK
/ Cristiane Cäsar
  • Département d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut Jean-Nicod (ENS – EHESS – CNRS), Paris, France
  • School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, St Mary’s Quad, St Andrews, Fife, UK
  • Instituto de Ciências da Natureza, Universidade Federal de Alfenas, Alfenas, Brazil
  • Instituto de Pesquisa Bicho do Mato, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
/ Sumir Keenan
  • Département d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut Jean-Nicod (ENS – EHESS – CNRS), Paris, France
  • School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, St Mary’s Quad, St Andrews, Fife, UK
/ Alban Lemasson
  • Département d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut Jean-Nicod (ENS – EHESS – CNRS), Paris, France
  • Université de Rennes 1, Ethologie animale et humaine (UMR 6552 – CNRS), Station Biologique, Paimpont, France
/ Karim Ouattara
  • Département d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut Jean-Nicod (ENS – EHESS – CNRS), Paris, France
  • Laboratory of Zoology and Animal Biology, University Félix Houphouet Boigny, Abidjan, Ivory Coast
/ Robin Ryder
  • Département d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut Jean-Nicod (ENS – EHESS – CNRS), Paris, France
  • Centre de Recherche en Mathématiques de la Décision, CNRS, UMR 7534, Université Paris-Dauphine, PSL Research University, Paris, France
/ Klaus Zuberbühler
  • Département d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut Jean-Nicod (ENS – EHESS – CNRS), Paris, France
  • School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, St Mary’s Quad, St Andrews, Fife, UK
  • Centre for Cognitive Science, University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Published Online: 2016-07-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tl-2016-0010

Abstract

We explain why general techniques from formal linguistics can and should be applied to the analysis of monkey communication – in the areas of syntax and especially semantics. An informed look at our recent proposals shows that such techniques needn’t rely excessively on categories of human language: syntax and semantics provide versatile formal tools that go beyond the specificities of human linguistics. We argue that “formal monkey linguistics” can yield new insights into monkey morphology, syntax, and semantics, as well as raise provocative new questions about the existence of a pragmatic, competition-based component in these communication systems. Finally, we argue that evolutionary questions, which are highly speculative in human language, can be addressed in an empirically satisfying fashion in primate linguistics, and we lay out problems that should be addressed at the interface between evolutionary primate linguistics and formal analyses of language evolution.

Keywords: primate linguistics; primate semantics; primate syntax; evolutionary primate linguistics; call evolution; evolution of language

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About the article

Published Online: 2016-07-05

Published in Print: 2016-07-01


Citation Information: Theoretical Linguistics, ISSN (Online) 1613-4060, ISSN (Print) 0301-4428, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tl-2016-0010. Export Citation

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