Linguistics and the Human Sciences, Vol 2, No 3 (2006)

Appraisal in Bonobo-Human Culture: Negotiating social behavioural parameters through evaluation with bonobo apes

Naomi K. Knight
Issued Date: 21 Aug 2008

Abstract


Instances of linguistic interactions with the bonobo apes (pan paniscus) Kanzi and Panbanisha have demonstrated that symbolic meaning is negotiated by bonobo and caregiver through discourse semantic systems in the English language (Benson & Greaves 2005: 33--34), developing a unique bonobo-human culture based on shared linguistic communication. In this paper, I will exhibit that caregivers and bonobos co-construe a higher order of social behavioural values and activities in bonobo-human culture through the employment of the linguistic semantic system of Appraisal, negotiating rules and boundaries and social expectations specific to their environment. In redesigning the Appraisal systems of JUDGEMENT and APPRECIATION and their subcategories, as well as restating lexical realizations to suit this unique culture, humans and bonobos can be seen to clearly express and comprehend evaluations of the full Appraisal system. I propose that through language, the four essential values of safety, open and growing communication, cooperation, and positive encouragement are built and maintained in evaluative meanings. This illustration of the use of the full system of Appraisal by Kanzi and Panbanisha suggest that the bonobos have achieved metasemiotic development into the English language beyond its affectual beginnings (Painter 2003).

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DOI: 10.1558/lhs.v2i3.355

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