Project: The 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.

‘Language contact occurs when two or more languages are varieties interact. The study of language contact is called contact linguistics’. – Wikepedia.

How 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. 

BHD 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. 

FTP 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.

Research Opportunities for Glendon Students with the Bonobo-Human Discourse (BHD) & French Twins Projects (FTP)



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Le français à la mesure d'un continent:
un patrimoine en partage (2010-2017), both funded under the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada's (SSHRC) Major Collaborative Research Initiatives.
Professor Raymond Mougeon
Co-Investigator on $2.5M Research Project to Study North American Francophones
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Traduction, Écriture et Mémoire
le 13 novembre 2013


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Cultural Indifference and Translated Literature
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