August 10, 2004

score one for Chomsky

Koko, the 33 year-old gorilla who learned a rudimentary form of sign language, had a tooth removed recently. She was able to communicate this problem, and the level of pain she was feeling, to her guardians - a remarkable feat, to be sure. But some of the finer points of symbolic interaction yet elude Koko and her ilk:

Her teacher, Francine Patterson, was at her side when the anesthesiologist prepared to put her under in the morning, and apparently Koko asked to meet her specialists.

They crowded around her, and Koko, who plays favorites, asked one woman wearing red to come closer. The woman handed her a business card, which Koko promptly ate.

Otherwise, Koko was calm, Liang said.

You can lead a signing gorilla to a cocktail party, but you can't make her shmooze.