Henry David Thoreau

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Although "speech is commonly recognized as the dividing line between humans and the rest of the animal world" (Amy Stafford, Chimpanzee Communication), studies have shown that chimps and other primates partially share that capability too. "Human language is used for expression of thought, for establishing social relationships, for communication of information and for clarifying ideas." (Noam Chomsky) "So by studying the communication abilities and development of language in chimps and other great apes, we can learn more about ourselves and our own language capabilities." (Amy Stafford, Chimpanzee communication) Chimps are able to deliberately communicate with others, and their comprehension "behind the exchanges is a level of understanding unseen elsewhere in the animal world." (Amy Stafford, Chimpanzee Communication) Chimps have been taught up to a vocabulary of 200 words using ASL, or American Sign Language. Studies have also shown that chimps have responded appropriately to about 70% of what has been learned. "More than a century ago, Darwin and Huxley proved that humans share recent common ancestors with the African great apes. Modern molecular studies have spectacularly confirmed this prediction and have refined the relationships, showing that the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and bonobo (Pan paniscus or pygmy chimpanzee) are our closest living evolutionary relatives." (Initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome) " And because these human language abilities must have evolved from abilities present in our primate ancestors, many researchers have believed that it might be possible for primates to learn human language." (www.thebrain.mcgill.ca) Out of the approximate 3 billion base units of DNA in chimp's and human's genomes, there is merely a 1.16 %, difference. This displays "vast similarities, though key differences as well." (Paul Thompson, Seattle post-intelligencer reporter) "Also, 5 million additions to or subtractions from the genome involving chunks of DNA sequence have been found." (seattlepi.nwsource.com) Robert Waterson, director of genome sciences at the University of Washington and lead author of a report in an edition of the journal Nature, believes the knowledge of these mutations will help us to identify and trace evolutionary events. The questions of why such dramatic differences in physical capabilities and the learning capacity of humans verse primates are common, crucial, and remain only partially answered with conflict prominent. One gene, FOXP2, may be the deciding factor for how humans can speak and primates are "genetically at a lose for words." (seattlepi.nwsource.com). A study, conducted by Waterson, of a family with a genetically transmitted and severe speech impediment concluded in the finding of a mutated FOXP2 gene.

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