We may have a basic form of sign language in common with chimpanzees


By Clare Wilson

Chimpanzees and a child

Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty

We can communicate with chimps. When put to the test, people can usually understand the meaning of ten common gestures used by chimpanzees.

Human infants also use some of the same gestures before they can talk, although we don’t yet know if their meanings are the same.

The gestures may be the remnants of a basic sign language used by our last common ancestors with apes, says Kirsty Graham, who did the work while at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. “This gestural communication is probably biologically inherited among the great apes – including humans.”

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