Registrare la simian tongue

Il contributo di Richard Lynch Garner al dibattito sul linguaggio degli animali

  • Michela Piattelli Università di Roma «La Sapienza»


The paper introduces the figure of American self-taught naturalist Richard Lynch Garner (1848-1920) and his work with the language of animals. Garner was mainly known for his use of the “phonograph”, a tool realised by Thomas Alva Edison towards the end of the Nineteenth-century for recording and reproducing sounds. It was Garner’s intuition to use the instrument to record the verses uttered by monkeys in order to study them from a linguistic point of view. Aided by his recordings, Garner came up with a theory which considered the languages of monkeys as real idioms, allegedly the antecedents of human articulate language. Though not fully up-to-date with Darwinism and evolutionism, Garner’s proposal holds a great interest in the history of animal studies as an early instance of empirical observation conducted in close contact with animals.

How to Cite
PIATTELLI, Michela. Registrare la simian tongue. Blityri, [S.l.], v. 7, n. 1, p. 147-158, sep. 2018. ISSN 2281-6682. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 jan. 2021.