Natural gorilla sign language to communicate with babies

By Amanda Shore

Humans and gorillas, both part of the Great Ape family, use forms of “baby talk.” In this trait, we are unique from other apes. A new study has shown that gorillas that are at least 3 years old use specific nonverbal cues to communicate with baby gorillas. The adults will use and repeat these cues and use touch to communicate with their young. These cues are different from the way that more mature gorillas will communicate with each other.

When the gorillas stop using this baby sign language to communicate with the young of their species, it shows that they understand what the baby’s maturity level is.

This form of communication was noticed by Dr. Eva Maria Luef and Dr. Katja Liebal. They were filming western lowland gorillas in the UK. “We were surprised that … infants are addressed differently,” said Luef.

Some new studies are showing that rhesus monkeys have a different vocalization when they speak to their young. With this new information, scientists may find many other species that communicate with their babies in similar ways.

2 Responses to "Natural gorilla sign language to communicate with babies"

  1. etel @SignShine   June 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Isn’t that amazing?! Sign language can truly cross barriers, bringing communication across cultures, societies, and even species! Using their hands, humans and gorillas have been able to speak to each other, sharing and expressing their own ideas and feelings.
    see article I wrote: abotu Koko

    • Lena Johnson   June 16, 2012 at 12:01 am

      Always so sweet to hear these kinds of things. I also am a big baby signing fan and have researched and practiced it for many years, especially with my own little ones! It is interesting to think that these gorillas maintain such a connection with their young, much like we do with our own. Doesn’t it make you wonder whether signing with your baby, before he/she reaches that ‘maturity level’ that allows them to communicate in a different way (and in our case start to speak) could be a beneficial way to communicate and connect with your own children? Honestly, if this doesn’t show that, I don’t know what else does! I just read the article you posted, Etel. Very interesting, and again, just shows how beneficial using new ways to communicate with young ones (even the non-traditional ways) can really bring parents and children together!


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