Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sad news: a linguistically prominent primate passes

Tim Stowell just notified me that Koko the gorilla just died (here). The obit is a bit over the top. Kokeodid not really teach us much about language and her skills were vastly over-hyped. However, I have a very warm spot in my heart for her as I once cross-dressed and played her in a skit given at MIT for Chomsky's birthday. For about 5 minutes Koko debated Chomsky to a standstill (or that is the way Koko saw it, reports differ). This even let me get to know Koko from the inside as it were (I recommend inhabiting a Gorilla Suit if you ever get the chance). Elan Dresher played Chomsky and Amy Weinberg played Penny Patterson. The names were changed, of course, to protect the innocent. At any rate, she has passed. RIP.


  1. On the topic of the linguistic capacity of primates -- there is a recent paper by Tecumseh Fitch describing some recent research on teaching monkeys languages that have Merge (to put it contentiously). It's here.

    1. And if you don't mind using sci-hub, here is the full text .

      (I don't know what the blog policy is about dodgy Russian hacker sites .. Norbert, feel free to delete this post)

    2. If I may add to this, the main results he refers to comes from here:

      I think the set of experiments is very nicely designed (and the central result is put slightly less contentiously :)) so it makes for an interesting read.