Research Interests or Specialties
Second language acquisisition (SLA) and pedagogy
- Acquisition of aspects of English by bonobo apes
- Primate Discourse and Cognition: Ape — Human Communication
- Register variation in discourse
Research on ape-human discourse
Duration of project: On-going
Principal Investigators: Jim Benson and William Greaves
Professors Benson and Greaves (English Studies, Glendon) formed The Bonobo-Human Discourse research group was formed in the summer of 2009. During the academic year 2009/2010 a team of 8 undergraduates have been cataloguing a video archive made available by Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh of the Great Ape Trust of Iowa. The research goal is to extract discourse exchanges in a variety of contexts that clearly demonstrate the language abilities of the bonobos, to annotate these exchanges in ELAN software, and ultimately to create a searchable database of the video clips.
Ape-human discourse is carried out in a number of ways. Caregivers talk to the apes in ordinary English, and the apes respond through gestures, some vocalizations which can be recognized as English words, and, principally, by touching arbitrary signs on a lexigram keyboard which cause a computer speaker to say the word.
The project is funded by RAY grants, Glendon Research Grants, and the generosity of unpaid volunteers.
Functional Dimensions of Ape-Human Discourse (co-edited with W.S. Greaves). London: Equinox, 2005, 122 pp.
‘Bonobo-human discourse: where does Kanzi’s ‘bad surprise’ come from?’ InLa Linguistique fonctionnelle au tournant du siècle, Claude Tatilon et Alain Baudot, (eds). Toronto: Éditions du GREF, 2002. 201-206.
‘Stratal analysis of a fragment of human-bonobo discourse’ (co-authored with William Greaves, Kazuyoshi Iwamoto, Jennifer Lukas, and Sue Savage-Rumbaugh). In La Linguistique fonctionnelle au tournant du siècle, Claude Tatilon et Alain Baudot, (eds). Toronto: Éditions du GREF, 2002. 207-215.
Language, apes, and meaning-making (co-authored with Jared P. Taglialatela, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Duane M. Rumbaugh, and William S. Greaves). InLanguage Development: Functional Perspectives in Evolution andOntogenesis, G. Williams and Annabelle Lukin (eds.). London: Continuum, 2006. 91-111.
‘Mind and brain in apes: a methodology for phonemic analysis of vocalizations of language competent bonobos’ (co-authored with Meena Debashish, William Greaves, Jennifer Lukas, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, and Jared Taglialatela.Language Sciences, 26, 6 (2004): 643-660.
‘Evidence for symbolic language processing in a bonobo (Pan paniscus)’ (co-authored with William Greaves, Michael O’Donnell, and Paul Thibault (Journal of Consciousness Studies, 9,12, (2002): 33-56.
‘Confrontation and support in bonobo-human discourse’ (co-authored with Peter Fries, William Greaves, Kazuyoshi Iwamoto, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, and Jared Taglialatela). Functions of Language, 9.1 (2002): 1-38.