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The Song of the Ape: Understanding the Languages of Chimpanzees

By: Andrew R Halloran (Author)

276 pages, 10 b/w photos

St Martin's Press

Hardback | Mar 2012 | #198607 | ISBN-13: 9780312563110
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £31.99 $39/€36 approx

About this book

While working as a zookeeper with a group of captive chimpanzees living on an island, Andrew Halloran witnessed an event which would cause him to become obsessed with how chimpanzees communicate complex information and ideas to each other. He had carelessly forgotten to secure his rowboat and watched it floating over to the island, where five members of the chimp group quietly boarded. They sat in two perfect rows of two with Higgy, their alpha male, at the back, propelling and steering the boat to shore. The incident must have been pre-planned and communicated. Since then, Andrew has studied primate communication. What he found is that chimpanzees use a set of vocalizations every bit as complex as human language.

The Song of the Ape traces the individual histories of these five chimpanzees and examines how their histories led to the lexicon of the group. The book also details the history of scientists attempting – and failing – to train apes to use human grammar and language. Ultimately this fascinating account shows that while laboratories try in vain to produce a talking chimp, there is a living lexicon being passed down through the generations of each chimpanzee group in the wild.

"Those of us who work with nonhuman species can appreciate the subtle observations that Andrew Halloran in The Song of the Ape shares about individual chimpanzee personalities, dynamic relationships, and vocal communication. Whether in the wild or in captivity, Halloran shows us that the presence, or absence, of an individual can be pivotal to the survival and evolution of the group or another chimpanzee. Once again we are reminded that animals are not numbers but are unique beings deserving of our respect. This exploration into the complexity and behavioral dynamics of an ever-changing social group of chimpanzees leads us to think about new ways of studying sentient minds on the planet. For anyone interested in animal behavior and our closest relatives, this book is not to be missed!"
- Dr. Denise L Herzing, author of Dolphin Diaries

"The field of ape language research for decades has asked whether we can teach them to speak our language. Andrew Halloran has approached the question from a more intriguing – and sensible – perspective that has received short shrift: How do chimpanzees communicate with each other? Working with groups of captive chimpanzees living on separate islands, Halloran decoded some of their communications and dialects, and, more importantly, showed that there's a complexity to their vocalizations that humans barely understand."
- Jon Cohen, author of Almost Chimpanzee and Shots in the Dark

"Halloran is a wonderful storyteller, and his gripping account of living among the apes alternates between thrills and chills, humor and tender moments.."
- Kirkus Reviews (starred)

..".the author's detailed descriptions of the chimps themselves...make this book unique. Because of Halloran's considerable skill at literary nonfiction, the chimps of his study are as fascinating as characters in a novel. Strongly recommended for general readers who enjoy Jane Goodall's chimpanzee books."
- Library Journal (starred)

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