Real Audio clip of N'Kisi the African Gray Parrot talking with Aimee Morgana (2:12)

© Aimee Morgana 2002


Aimee is teaching N'kisi the concept of pushing buttons to achieve specific results, using as a teaching aid a musical toy with buttons in various shapes that says that shape (square, star, triangle, circle) or makes sounds (dog, cat) when those particular buttons are pushed. Aimee's ongoing research has documented that N'kisi understands the concept of pushing buttons to produce various effects. This excerpt also includes an example of N'kisi's creative wordplay, substituting the name of his favorite singer (Madonna) in the children's song "Old Macdonald".

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Aimee: Ok, ya ready? (Aimee pushes button, toy says 'square' and makes music.)

N'Kisi: (Enthusiastic tone) That's so cool!

Aimee: Isn't it?

N'Kisi: Can ya hear(music is playing)There's a square.

(Aimee pushes button again; toy says 'square')

N'Kisi: Lemme try (? illegible). Look, there's a square!

(Aimee pushes button again; toy says 'square')

N'Kisi: Can you see that?

Aimee: Yeah!

N'Kisi: Look!

Aimee: Isn't it cool?

N'Kisi: (sound). Lemme (? illegible) the turquoise. (referentiality unknown; toy has many colors on it.)
            Wow, there's a square.

(Aimee pushes button again, toy says 'square')

N'Kisi: Lemme write there's a little square. (Aimee pushes button again.) Old Madonna,
          E-I-O quack quack quack, here a quack there; there a quack, there a quack.
          Lemme show you. Look at the square.

(Aimee holds toy up to cage so that N'Kisi can push the buttons.
N'Kisi selects the 'square' button (out of several possible buttons) and pushes it; toy says 'square'.)

N'Kisi: Listen!

Aimee: Isn't that cool?

(N'Kisi pushes button again, toy says 'square')

N'Kisi: List...

Aimee: Wow!

(Aimee pushes the button; toy says 'square')

N'Kisi: Wow! there's a me...

Aimee: You like that?

N'Kisi: There's a square.

Aimee: Yeah.

N'Kisi: Can ya hear (makes cat-like mew sound)

Aimee: Ya wanna hear the kitty? Listen.

(Aimee pushes other button on toy; it makes meow sound and mewing music.)

N'Kisi: (laughter.)

Aimee: (laughter)

N'Kisi: That's so cool!

Aimee: Isn't it?

N'Kisi: Could push the button.

Aimee: Yeah.

N'Kisi: You could try-angle. (word play, due to grammatical context)

Aimee: OK. (Aimee pushes another button, toy says 'triangle'.) See? (pushes it again, 'triangle').

N'Kisi: Look at the square.

(Aimee pushes the button that says 'square'.)

N'Kisi: There's a square.

Aimee: Yeah. (Aimee pushes it again; toy says 'square'.)

N'Kisi: Star.

Aimee: OK. (Aimee pushes another button on toy, it says 'star'.)

N'Kisi: Sta... (whistle).

(Aimee pushes button again; toy says 'star'.)

N'Kisi: You pushed the button.

Aimee: I did, I pushed it!

It is important to remember that N'Kisi is only 4 years old, and his species has a lifespan similar to humans. He has been receiving teaching in the use of Human Language for 4 years, and his current contextual vocabulary is over 700 words. He spends hours daily in spontaneous conversations and teaching sessions with Aimee. (When teaching, Aimee repeats new words and concepts, so N'kisi's speeech in these sessions tends to be more repetitive than during their normal conversations.) Aimee's work with N'kisi is communication oriented, rather than task oriented, and no behaviorist training techniques have been used (such as rewards for the production of desired responses). Instead, Nkisi has been encouraged to use language as he chooses, for his own purposes of communication and self expression.

    N'kisi Project

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