Where have all the (ape) gestures gone?

Richard W. Byrne*, Hélène Cochet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Comparative analysis of the gestural communication of our nearest animal relatives, the great apes, implies that humans should have the biological potential to produce and understand 60–70 gestures, by virtue of shared common descent. These gestures are used intentionally in apes to convey separate requests, rather than as referential items in syntactically structured signals. At present, no such legacy of shared gesture has been described in humans. We suggest that the fate of “ape gestures” in modern human communication is relevant to the debate regarding the evolution of language through a possible intermediate stage of gestural protolanguage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-71
Number of pages4
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Communication
  • Gesture
  • Great ape
  • Language origin


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