Savage Rumbaugh

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  • study language aquisition of two pygmy chimpanzees - Kanzi and Mulika compared to 2 common chimps, Austin and Sherman


  • Case Study - 17 months


  • Kanzi - male bonobo (abandoned by birth mother) - 2yrs6months
  • Mulika - female bonobo (mother Matata also brought up Kanzi) - 11months
  • both were exposed to language from a young age through their mother - looked after by humans
  • Austin and Sherman - male common chimps, 5/6 years old


  • taught language using lexigram (inside attached to computer, outside used a laminated board and recorded results) - linked to voice synthesizer - as bonobos are unable to produce human like vocalisations (voicebox located lower down that humans)
  • intially only 8 lexigram symbols -> 256 at end of study
  • also taught american sign language
  • ALL FOUR PRIMATES taught by the SAME instructor in similar atmosphere
  • Kanzi/Mulika did most learning by observation whereas Austin/Sherman needed rewards
  • Coding: Correct, Incorrect, Imitated, Structured, 
  • used real time recordings and visual recordings
  • For word to be in vocab: behavioural concordance (symbol matched behaviour) and 9/10 used spontaneously, observers compared data (IRR)
  • Daily formal tests: asked to find appropriate symbols on lexigram, (blind test)


  • Over study Kanzi acquired 45 words e.g. Orange, Banana and Mulika 37 e.g. Milk, Egg
  • Mulika was initially slower at acquiring words
  • Kanzi Developed spontaneous gestures e.g. taking a nut and banging hand - asking to be opened, started making combinations 
  • Over 17 months Kanzi produced 2805…


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