Can an Ape Create a Sentence?

Forget what you saw in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Apes can’t make sentences, even if someone has tried really hard to teach them sign language. The documentary Project Nim describes one attempt to teach sign language to a chimpanzee:

The chimpanzee used in this experiment was named Nim Chimpsky, which was a mocking reference to the linguist Noam Chomsky, who had predicted that no such experiment would work. Chomsky said that it’s about as likely that an ape will prove to have a language ability as there is an island somewhere with a species of flightless birds waiting for humans to teach them to fly. In other words, if apes could use language, they’d be doing so already.
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This Miracle Occurs Only With Humans

Here is the climax of the movie The Miracle Worker, with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke:

The Miracle Worker tells the true story of Anne Sullivan (played by Bancroft) and Helen Keller (played by Duke), as recounted in Helen Keller’s autobiography The Story of My Life. In this scene, Helen suddenly grasps the idea that the sequences of hand gestures that Sullivan has been making stand for the names of things! Once Helen grasped this concept, she started racing around, demanding to know what other things were called. No ape has ever done that.

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