Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines

Intentional communication in primates

Zuberbühler, Klaus

In: Revue Tranel, 2018, vol. 68, p. 69-75

Human communication, including language, is the product of underlying intentions that are purposely expressed, epistemically monitored and flexibly interpreted. A main question in science has been about the evolutionary origins of this cognitive capacity. One way to address the problem is by studying the natural communication of animals, particularly nonhuman primates. As everything in biology,... Plus

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    Summary
    Human communication, including language, is the product of underlying intentions that are purposely expressed, epistemically monitored and flexibly interpreted. A main question in science has been about the evolutionary origins of this cognitive capacity. One way to address the problem is by studying the natural communication of animals, particularly nonhuman primates. As everything in biology, evolutionary transitions are gradual events, suggesting that intention may also have evolved in different stages as a function of increasing brainpower and cognitive complexity. In this chapter, I review empirical work on primate communication, which suggests that goal-directed intentional communication is well within the scope of animals, while simple mind-directed intentionality may be restricted to great apes and humans and shared intentionality may be an exclusively human capacity.