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The Song of the Ape: Understanding the Languages of Chimpanzees
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The Song of the Ape: Understanding the Languages of Chimpanzees

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  42 ratings  ·  12 reviews
An absorbing investigation of chimpanzee language and communication by a young primatologist.

While working as a zookeeper with a group of semi-wild chimpanzees living on an island, primatologist Andrew Halloran witnessed an event that would cause him to become fascinated with how chimpanzees communicate complex information and ideas to one another. The grouphe was working
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288 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by St. Martin's Press
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Dawn
There is truly a divide in this county, and I'm not talking about red states and blue states... There is a growing abyss between people who understand the unique magnificence of chimpanzees as chimpanzees, and those who continue to seek to humanize the apes for the mere benefit that accrues to themselves.

The Song of the Ape brought this realization home to me, with a figurative slap on the back by Higgy, the alpha male who takes center stage for most of Halloran's story. (If there is any doubt a
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Chiara
Why it got more than two stars: the readability. I really enjoyed the stories that were told, learning about the relationships between all of the chimps in this animal sanctuary. It was just like a story.

Why it got less than four stars: It was just like a story. I was under the impression, when I picked this book up, that it would be a scientific examination of the language of chimps. The author referenced, near the start, his research into spectral analysis of their calls - which doesn't get ta
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Cheryl
This book was very disappointing. I studied primate behavior as an undergraduate, and have had an interest in new developments in the field. Halloran, while criticizing other studies for being unscientific (mainly those about apes acquiring human sign language) offers only anecdotal incidents which are inadequately described. In the field of primate behavior, careful description is a necessity, as description forms the data that provides possibilities for understanding and theoretical models.

Ev
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Ron Davidson
I'm a sucker for chimpanzee stories, but this one was especially good -- An overview of real chimpanzee "language," (i.e., how they communicate) as examined through the lives of the chimps and their "communities." The author does a great job in explicating the characters of the individual chimpanzees without reducing them to a caricature of being just another furry quasi-human, as others tend to do. (Koko the gorilla is the author's prime example.) Reading this book, I learned a bit about chimpa ...more
Phyllis
"The Song of the Ape" is an engrossing, well-written story that delves into the author's inspiration to study primates, unsuccessful historical attempts to teach chimpanzees various human languages, and current studies of chimps in captivity and the wild. Each story about the five main chimps, including the great Little Mama and Higgy to Elgin, Gin, and Cindy, is fascinatingly presented in parallel to stories about chimps being observed in Tanzania and other locations. This is not a stuffy, acad ...more
Jonah
Things I did NOT like about this book:

-Presentation of the "window" theory of the language acquisition in humans, which has been shown to be false. Halloran spends quite a while explaining the idea that humans have to learn language by a certain age or else never can, an idea often presented along with the case history he presents- one of a girl who was locked up in one room for the first twelve years of her life, with minimal human interaction, and who was subsequently unable to learn language.
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Ardene
This non-fiction book was highly readable, and I think Halloran’s thesis that in trying to teach our ape cousins to speak human we’re making a mistake (we should be trying to understand, in his case, chimpanzee instead) is an intriguing and, perhaps, a valid one. This book avoids the pitfall of trying to cram too much history and scientific argument down our throats and tells wonderful stories instead.

Some of the stories are about the history of scientists trying to teach apes (gorillas, chimps
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Suzanne Auckerman
Good book, but a little to hard at first. When it begins, it is a narrative by a animal keeper of chimps in an animal park in Florida. But he was actually a PhD candidate studying chimp language and his findings are quite remarkable. And as the stories of the different chimps unfold, I was completely sucked in. The worse part is knowing what so many chimps have suffered as experimental animals, as exotic pets, circus animals.
Susan
He finally admitted that he mistrusts all research now but his own, which made him less of a jerk. The stories of the various chimp's lives was very interesting. And he is correct that it is much more exciting to look at them in their own culture than trying to make them fit ours.
Aaron
Rather than try to teach chimps a human language, this book focuses on observing their language use, including how ones who failed to learn as infants try to cope with learning their own language as adults. Halloran is an astute observer and thinker and this book has much to teach us about chimps and ourselves.
Elaine
This was a great book. I personally worked with Hank's group in Chicago. A great book for those who are unaware of the issues surrounding captive chimps in the United States.
Alexandra Joy
A great read for those seeking to learn about chimpanzee vocal communication.
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