A multimodal analysis of the communicative utterances of a language competent bonobo (Pan paniscus)
Language is a multimodal experience that flows through vocalizations, gestures, facial expressions and even textual or symbolic mediums. New studies on captive apes shows that they employ multimodal communication more often than not, yet this methodology has not been applied to apes reared in language-rich environments, either with American Sign Language or printed symbols. Using archived video data of spontaneous communicative interactions (n= 336) between a language enculturated bonobo (Pan paniscus), Kanzi, and human caretakers, I catalogue utterances and analyze them for lexigram (printed symbols) and manual gesture combinations. Gestures are catalogued within Kendon's continuum (2004) in the categories of beats, points, and iconics. Kanzi was shown to produce a significantly larger mean utterance length (1.46 symbols per utterance) than the 1.15 posited by Clive Wynne (2001). Kanzi also produced significantly longer mean utterances when gestures were included in the analysis (1.85 symbols per utterance). Kanzi did not significantly alter his production in conditions of prompted versus spontaneous utterances, which suggests no Clever Hans or performance aspect to his productions. However, Kanzi was shown to increase his utterance length depending on his number of repetitions, suggesting he employs the Gricean Maxim of Quantity (1975) in his communications. Further discussion focuses on how Kanzi's abilities are often misrepresented through adherence to the longstanding metaphysical divide between humans and animals and how this myth impacts both our scientific and anthropological researchers to this day.