togog: Subproject P6b

Linear and simultaneous structures of gestural combination in non-human primates: Gesture sequences in great apes

Researchers: Katja Liebal, Cornelia Müller, Sebastian Tempelmann, and Susanne Tag



Specific aims:
1. Analyse an existing set of coded gesture sequences produced by orang-utans and compare emerging patterns with results obtained from chimpanzees;
2. Analyse components of linear and simultaneous structures in the combination of ape gestures analogous to methods applied for human gestures;
3. Conduct a set of experiments to investigate the production and comprehension of gestures, with a focus on the production of gesture sequences.

For study (1), 160 hours of videotapes of observations of orang-utan interactions have been coded with regard to the kinds of gestures used, the corresponding functional contexts, as well as to whether the gestures were produced singly or as part of a sequence. The analysis of this data set has started in January 2009.

Study (2) encompasses the analysis of linear structures in terms of temporal successions of single gestures as well as simultaneous structures, i.e. the articulation of gestures with different articulators, such as the face and one or more limbs, at the same time. On the basis of analyses of recurrent forms in non-human primate gestures conducted in subproject P5b, the structural patterns of these gestures in combination will be investigated. Currently, the video material is being analyzed to find suitable sequences so that corresponding analyses can begin in March 2009.

For study (3), data collection encompassing all four great ape species has been completed for three different experiments:
a. The role of body position and of head position in food-begging contexts;
b. Food begging in a triadic context;
c. Comprehension of conspecifics’ deictic pointing behaviour.
The videotapes have been coded and the statistical analysis is in progress.