Communicating Chimp Signs Off

Washoe, simian with impressive vocabulary, is dead at 42
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2007 5:07 PM CDT
Members of Washoe's species relax on a log. Could they too learn to sign?   ((c) Eric Kilby)
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(Newser) – Washoe, the first non-human to learn a human language, is being remembered as a linguistic pioneer and a "polite, cheerful person," even though she was a chimp. Washoe, who died this week at 42, could use around 250 different American Sign Language signs in conversation, the Seattle Times reports, and continued to communicate her feelings until her death.

Without human aid, Washoe taught ASL to Loulis, another chimp, in the first animal-to-animal transfer of a human language. Washoe's keepers say the chimps would discuss advanced topics like their emotional states and objects that were not present. Washoe herself was a scientific breakthrough, but the impossibility of replicating the results in other chimps cast doubts on the extent of chimp language ability.