In his review of "Adams Task: Calling Animals by Name" (The Book Review, Aug. 10), Thomas Sebeok bases his statements on the five signing chimps on information of 20 years ago.
The chimps--Washoe, Dar, Tatu, Moja and Loulis--use far more than "a minuscule number of Ameslan signs." Speaking among themselves, the chimps' signs are sometimes sloppy, but when speaking to Dr. Roger Fouts, their principal trainer and friend, the signs are precise. They are accurate enough that deaf people can communicate with them.
They are not and never have been "drilled." As Sebeok stated, no one was allowed to address Washoe vocally when she was very young--20 years ago. Everyone in her presence used Ameslan. Washoe picked it up as a child picks up spoken English. Loulis, the youngest (now 8 years old), was taught to sign by Washoe, not by humans.
Friends of Washoe