Vocalize to Localize
  • ISSN 1572-0373
  • E-ISSN: 1572-0381
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Pointing by apes is near-ubiquitous in captivity, yet rare in their natural habitats. This has implications for understanding both the ontogeny and heritability of pointing, conceived as a behavioral phenotype. The data suggest that the cognitive capacity for manual deixis was possessed by the last common ancestor of humans and the great apes. In this review, nonverbal reference is distinguished from symbolic reference. An operational definition of intentional communication is delineated, citing published or forthcoming examples for each of the defining criteria from studies of manual gestures in apes. Claims that chimpanzees do not point amongst themselves or do not gesture declaratively are refuted with published examples. Links between pointing and cognitive milestones in other domains relating means to ends are discussed. Finally, an evolutionary scenario of pointing as an adaptation to changes in hominid development is briefly sketched.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): apes; communication; deixis; hominoidea; manual gestures; nonverbal reference; pointing
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