Bonobo-Human Discourse (BHD) and French Twins (FTP)
This project is carried out by Professors Benson and Greaves (English Studies, Glendon) and a team of students who together form the Systemic Functional Linguistics Discourse Research Group.
when two or more languages are varieties interact. The study of language contact
is called contact
broadly can we interpret ‘language contact’? The Bonobo-Human Discourse (BHD)
and French Twins (FTP) projects offer a provocative perspective on this question
by using the same methodology – the fluid organization of conversation - to
investigate a particular kind of interspecies communication and a unique
instance of human language development.
has access to a corpus of hundreds of hours of conversations between bonobos now
located at the Great Ape Trust and human caregivers/researchers. Bonobo-bonobo
communication is not the focus of study. Instead, we investigate the co-creation
of dialogue between English-speaking humans and second-‘languaged’ bonobos. The
bonobo colony, which now spans three generations, includes the well-known Kanzi
and Panbanisha. The development of the bonobos’ capacity for language has
ecological validity because dialogic interaction is the context in which human
children’s language capacities develop. BHD is also collaborating with Automatic
Speech Recognition experts at Carnegie-Mellon University on the function of
bonobo vocalizations in conversation with humans.
also has a corpus of hundreds of hours of conversations, between the twins and
their parents. In this case, the contact is not between different languages, but
between different varieties, as negotiations among the adults and children
create an ever-widening circle of meaning-making.
Funded through the RAY program, the students used PRAAT and ELAN software to identify relevant discourse segments from a large video archive made available by Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh of the Great Ape Trust of Iowa.
Opportunities for Glendon Students with the Bonobo-Human Discourse (BHD) &
French Twins Projects (FTP)