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Episode 3, Part 2: If Only They Could Speak

Rogue Syntax


In Rogue Syntax: Episode 3, part 2, we listen in to animal signals, and attempt to place them within the context of their own worlds – calls, responses, songs and sonic forms we as yet lack the capacity to understand.

Episode 3 of Rogue Syntax exists of two parts, which both deal with the legacy of what happens when humans try to make non-humans talk. This second part of Rogue Syntax’s investigation into what happens when humans try to make non-humans talk, deals with two experiments with chimpanzees both intended to disprove ascendant theories of Noam Chomsky from the 60s onwards.

The first part of episode 3 explored the stories of “talking” horses and chimpanzee sign language experiments; introduced concepts such as operant conditioning and the observer expectancy effect in the context of language learning; and discussed the ethical and psychological effects of what happens when we make animals communicate with us. You can listen to Part 1 here.

In this second part, we continue to listen to the evolving ethics of behavioural experiments with animals and the tragic effects on chimps and humans alike whose lives were altered by this struggle between competing linguistic theorists and theories.

Featuring music by Vera Dvale and guests Lekan Akinlosotu Martins and Sabine Gottfried. The image above shows Yerkish lexigrams: a visuo-graphic language used by great apes (text is part of the images).


this project: Rogue Syntax: Primer is a new primer podcast exploring speech and language by artists Nathan Gray, Makiko Yamamoto and Danni Zuvela, in conversation with linguist Dr Rikke Bundgaard-Nielson, and others.
Supported by Liquid Architecture (Melbourne), 1646 (The Hague) and Australia Council for the Arts.


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