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Durham University

Department of Anthropology

Departmental Seminars

The Departmental Seminar Series focusses on integrated Anthropology and represents Social Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology and Anthropology of Health equally. All welcome.

There are no seminars in this series for the dates selected.

Evolutionary Anthropology Seminars: The Hitchhiker's Guide to Great Ape Gesture

Presented by Cat Hobaiter, St Andrews

20 November 2019 16:00 in D104, Dawson Building

Language appears to be the most complex system of animal communication described to date. However, its precursors were present in the communication of our evolutionary ancestors and are likely shared by our modern ape cousins. All great apes, including humans, employ a rich repertoire of vocalizations, facial expressions, and gestures. Great ape gestural repertoires are particularly elaborate, with ape species employing over 80 different gesture types intentionally: that is towards a recipient with a specific goal in mind. Intentional usage allows us to ask not only what information is encoded in ape gestures, but what do apes mean when they use them. I will discuss our recent research on ape gesture, including work on human infants. I will also explore how we can define signals and meaning from the perspective of the ape signallers using them. By employing an ape-centric approach we may be better able to describe their communicative capacities.

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