Evidence and interpretation in great ape gestural communication.

Humana Mente 6 (24):27-51 (2013)
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Abstract

Tomasello and colleagues have offered various arguments to explain why apes find the comprehension of pointing difficult. They have argued that: (i) apes fail to understand communicative intentions; (ii) they fail to understand informative, cooperative communication, and (iii) they fail to track the common ground that pointing comprehension requires. In the course of a review of the literature on apes' production and comprehension of pointing, I reject (i) and (ii), and offer a qualified defence of (iii). Drawing on work on expressive communication, I sketch an account of a mechanism by which ape gestural communication may proceed: the showing of expressive and naturally meaningful embodied behaviours. Such gestures are easily interpretable because they present rich evidence for a speaker's message. By contrast, pointing typically provides poor evidence for a speaker’s message, which must therefore be inferred from considerations in the interlocutors' common ground. This makes pointing comprehension comparatively difficult.

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Richard Moore
University of Warwick

References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe.
Meaning.Herbert Paul Grice - 1957 - Philosophical Review 66 (3):377-388.
Using Language.Herbert H. Clark - 1996 - Cambridge University Press.
The Study of Instinct.N. Tinbergen - 1954 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 5 (17):72-76.

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