Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0929-998X
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9765
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As part of a program to explore the communicative abilities of bonobo apes within the human-ape culture at the Language Research Center at Georgia State University, we made two complementary analyses of a conversation between Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Kanzi. We made both a conversation analysis and a lexico-grammatical analysis of their interaction. The conversation analysis revealed the participants negotiating the interpersonal meanings of confrontation and support, while the lexico-grammatical analysis revealed the ideational domain of the confrontation and support. Although many of the contributions of both participants did not fully express all the relevant meanings, both participants interpreted each other’s contributions in terms of their relevance to the patterns of interpersonal and ideational meanings being expressed in the conversation. We conclude that Kanzi’s considerable language abilities have been underestimated. First, Kanzi (despite his limited syntax) and Sue jointly construe a recognizable social world through discourse. Second, in exchanging discourse roles with Sue, Kanzi negotiates the asymmetrical power relation between himself and Sue. Finally, Kanzi’s accomplishment suggests that discourse semantics is a powerful motivation for the evolution of both interpersonal and ideational grammar.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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