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当前位置: Science » 植物&动物 » Science:猩猩有“一流的语言能力”,却不懂简单的语法


摘要 : 二十三年前,一个叫Kanzi的倭黑猩猩(上图)在一项理解人类语言的测试中表现出了优异的成绩。但一项新的研究发现,也许他并没有科学家们想的那么聪明,至少语法不行。


二十三年前,一个叫Kanzi的倭黑猩猩(上图)在一项理解人类语言的测试中表现出了优异的成绩。但一项新的研究发现,也许他并没有科学家们想的那么聪明,至少语法不行。最初的测试包括660个用英语说出的口头命令,要求Kanzi完成像是“指出哪个是热水”或“往便盆里倒冷水”这样的事情。总体而言,Kanzi表现得很好,完成准确率达到了71.5%(相比下,人类婴儿的准确率只有66.6%)。但是根据最新的分析,当研究人员要求他一次操作一个以上的物品时,他的表现便一落千丈,正确率仅为22.2%。举例来说,当有人让他“把打火机和鞋给Rose”时,他只给了打火机,但没给鞋。当要求他“把水和小狗给Rose”时,他只给了玩具狗而没有给水。为什么呢?爱丁堡大学的语言学家Robert Truswell本周在路易斯安那州新奥尔良市举行的“语言的演变”大会上报告称,与人类相比,像倭黑猩猩这样的动物可能在处理“水和小狗”这类的复杂名词短语时会感到更困难。人类很容易就能学会这种语法特征,即在一个句子较大的结构中有效地“嵌入”一个单元,这让我们能沟通,并且理解更复杂的想法。但Truswell警告说,人类很可能不是天生就有能力理解这种巢套结构。相反,我们必须被教会如何使用它。


Ape ‘language ace’ gets tripped up by simple grammar


Twenty-three years ago, a bonobo named Kanzi (above) aced a test in understanding human language. But a new study reveals he may not be as brainy as scientists thought—at least when it comes to grammar. The original test consisted of 660 verbal commands, in English, that asked Kanzi to do things like "show me the hot water" and "pour cold water in the potty." Overall, the ape did well, responding correctly 71.5% of the time (compared with 66.6% for an infant human). But when the researchers asked him to perform an action on more than one item, his performance plummeted to just 22.2%, according to the new analysis. When he was asked to "give the lighter and the shoe to Rose," for example, he gave Rose the lighter, but no shoe. When asked to "give the water and the doggie to Rose," he gave her the toy dog, but no water. The cause? Animals like bonobos may have a harder time than humans in processing complex noun phrases like “water and doggie,” linguist Robert Truswell of the University of Edinburgh reported in New Orleans, Louisiana, this week at the Evolution of Language conference. This feature of grammar—which effectively “nests” one unit within the bigger construct of a sentence—is easily picked up by humans, allowing us to communicate—and understand—more complex ideas. But Truswell cautions that humans probably aren’t born with the ability to interpret this kind of nesting structure. Instead, we must be taught how to use it.

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