March 02, 2004

Koko in the chat room

I'm less skeptical about the communicative and even "propositional" capacities of non-human animals than my colleague Geoff Pullum is, but for some other examples of the kind of anthropomorphizing that he's talking about, read this interview with Koko the gorilla.

Questions were relayed in sign language by Penny Patterson, and Koko's signed responses were transcribed in real time by another friendly observer.

"HaloMyBaby is the moderator of the chat on AOL, DrPPatrsn is Koko's friend and trainer, and LiveKOKO is Koko the gorilla." Here are a few passages where the thread of the discussion is a bit divergent. In fairness, I should say that I've had somewhat similar conversations with certain humans.

HaloMyBaby: MInyKitty asks, Koko are you going to have a baby in the future?
LiveKOKO: Pink
DrPPatrsn: We've had earlier discussion about colors today

Or again:

HaloMyBaby: SBM87 asks, What are the names of your kittens? (and dogs?)
LiveKOKO: foot
DrPPatrsn: Foot isn't the name of your kitty
HaloMyBaby: Koko, what's the name of your cat?
LiveKOKO: no
DrPPatrsn: She just gave some vocalizations there... some soft puffing
HaloMyBaby: I heard that soft puffing!
DrPPatrsn: Now shaking her head no.
Question: Do you like to chat with other people?
HaloMyBaby: That was from Rulucky!
LiveKOKO: fine nipple
DrPPatrsn: Nipple rhymes with people, she doesn't sign people per se, she was trying to do a "sounds like..."


Posted by Mark Liberman at March 2, 2004 07:28 PM