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  Words in the News
  Scientists working at the University of Georgia say that the chimps they work with not only understand human speech, but can carry on a conversation with humans using basic English sentences. Professor Sue Savage Rumbaugh, the lead scientist on the project, explained.
  Audio Listen to the report in full

29th July 1999

Talking chimpanzees

NEWS 1   Kanzi can't speak in the same way we can although he tries. When you heard that high pitched sound, he was trying to say the word 'water'. And just like somebody that has a speech impediment, when you're used to Kanzi's sounds you can understand them, but it is harder for strangers to do that.

high pitched sound: a high pitched sound is high and shrill
speech impediment: a disability such as a stammer which makes speaking difficult

NEWS 2    That's true until your ear gets used to it but we know that Kanzi knows what he means because he can also point to the word 'water' on a keyboard and he can show you a picture of water and, if you ask him 'Kanzi can you say the word "water"?,' he can select a picture or a symbol that tells you he understands your English and he can show you that he understands that English.

keyboard: the keyboard of a typewriter or a computer terminal is the set of keys that you press in order to operate it.
symbol: a symbol of something is a shape, design or other thing which is used to represent it.

NEWS 3  

If it's in a rote situation where you hold a glass of water up and you say if you're right and you push this button you can have water that's not really communication because the chimp is looking at the water, the chimp is reaching out their hand, the chimp has already communicated to you that they want water. It's sort of a trick in order to get water but what Kanzi can do is much more than that. He can comment that I'm drinking water or let's have some ice in our water or take some water to my mother.


rote: something arrived at by routine or habit than by careful thought.
comment: to express an opinion

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