BBC cites York study that shows orangutans use mime to communicate

Just like humans, orangutans will resort to mime to get their message across, scientists report, wrote BBC News online Aug. 11.

A team from Canada found the great apes would sometimes use elaborate gestures to explain what they meant.

Anne Russon, a psychology professor in Glendon College at York University in Ontario, Canada, said: “When I observed the events, yes, I was surprised – in the sense that it was very unusual and in one case their behaviour seemed, at the time, entirely bizarre and way out of character.”

One orangutan, Kikan, had injured her foot, and had been helped by a conservationist who dug out a small stone and then dripped latex from the stem of a fig leaf onto the wound to seal it. A week later, Kikan attracted the same conservationist’s attention and then picked up a leaf and re-enacted her treatment.

Professor Russon said: “She’s not asking for anything, which is the most common aim observed of great ape communication, but appears simply to be sharing a memory with the person who helped her when she hurt her foot. It shows her understanding of how events had unfolded in a particular situation, which was very complex.”

Often, the primates resorted to mime after other methods of communication had failed. The researchers said that while miming in orangutans seemed to be rare, it did tell us more about how the great apes communicated.

In their paper, Russon and Kristin Andrews, a philosophy professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, wrote that the complex “pantomimes” showed some of the properties of natural language.

Russon said: “Orangutans and other great apes have more sophisticated communicative abilities than currently believed. Pantomime has been proposed as the basis for the evolution to language because it broadens the range of messages that individuals can send – basically, anything you can act out. It allows you to create the sentence-like message: ‘You do action X using tool Y on object Z.’ This is a powerful communication tool indeed.”

Hamilton councillor predicts Pan Am stadium will come to York

Yesterday, [Hamilton city] council voted 12-3 in favour of putting a stadium at the downtown [west harbour] brownfield, a decision that puts an end to weeks of speculation, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Aug. 11.

Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark, who says he doesn’t support west harbour if the site doesn’t have a major tenant, left prior to the vote to attend the Michael Bublé concert at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) in Toronto.

“In Toronto tonight, at the ACC they are laughing at Hamilton,” Clark wrote in an e-mail to the Spectator. “Everyone HERE agrees the stadium will now go to York University.”

Kids + txting rn’t killing the language

The idea that our dependence on technology is ruining the English language is not a new one, wrote Toronto-based writer Dan Smiley in The Globe and Mail Aug. 11. Members of the media, linguists and grammar gurus are on both sides, pushing and pulling over the implications associated with texting, blogging and e-mailing. Many who think language is being flushed down the toilet put the blame squarely on younger generations. Is this criticism accurate or even relevant?

“In some ways, it’s a reaction to change and a reluctance to accept change, but to some extent it’s also a fictitious topic that doesn’t have any merit,” says Philipp Angermeyer, a linguistics professor in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. Many experts feel the same way, wrote Smiley.

It all boils down to what is appropriate in what context. “If I write a text message, my text might be inappropriately long and full of punctuation,” says Angermeyer.

“Ultimately, from a theoretical perspective, the only distinction you can really make is between native speakers [of a dialect] and non-native speakers. Every native speaker is a competent language speaker, and depending on what you are exposed to and what environments you use the language in, you acquire different skills.”

Ads scoring big in online games

Canadian gamers, their fingers wrapped tight around their controllers and clicking madly across their keypads, brought in millions of dollars for advertisers posting product shots inside virtual worlds last year, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 11.

Alan Middleton, a marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, said compared to television advertising, consumers find product placement in online games less disturbing.