No, Apes Wouldn't Talk the Way They Talk in 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

Also: rats.
Author:
Publish date:

Did you leave Dawn of Planet of the Apes concerned with the veracity of the film's linguistic science? Well, over at Language Log, our friend Geoff Pullum has reached a verdict:

What we see is a confused melange of half-hearted hand-sign language and occasional hoarsely croaked spoken sentences. Some of the time we were looking at subtitled sign-language conversations, though it is utterly unclear where the apes got the hang of sign language, since originally only one orangutan had been raised on sign; but at various dramatic points, when some ape was angry or wanted to say something to a human, vocalizations would mysteriously emerge. It was as if the film-makers thought that at moments of drama we wouldn't want to be bothered with subtitles.

Within the vocalized sentences, all sorts of things were inconsistent: sometimes little words like is or the were omitted, giving the apes a kind of Tarzan-speak, but sometimes they were included, and occasionally an ape (not only Caesar) would apparently understand a sentence of considerable complexity and subtlety.

And you know what? While we're here, let me say this: It's time we focus our post-human dystopian-nightmare art on a more realistic threat than evolved apes or sentient computing systems. The real threat just scuttled through a milky puddle underneath the subway tracks, the real threat just ran across Main Street at four in the morning, the real threat is right inside your Chop't sandwich. The real threat is all around us.

The real threat: the rats. —Ryan O'Hanlon

Related