Terrace, H.S. (1979/1980) Nim. London: Eyre Methuen.

Terrace, H.S., Pettito, L.A., Sanders, R.J. and Bever, T.G. (1979) Can an ape create a sentence? Science, 206, 891-902.

      • The project lasted 4 years and involved 60 teachers, mostly volunteers. Another group of about 40 volunteers tabulated and analyzed data from daily records and videotapes. (Terrace saw Nim first when Nim was 2 weeks old, and in the book visits him almost 5 years later.

      • In the Science paper more than 19,000 “multi-sign utterances” were analyzed for syntactic and semantic regularities.

      • There were some regularities, but videotape analyses showed that most of Nim’s utterances were prompted by his teacher’s prior utterances (signs in American Sign Language).

      • Nim interrupted his teachers to a much larger extent than a child interrupts an adult’s speech.

     2 signs     3 signs       4 signs











Typical two-sign combinations were —

“play me” (375)

“tickle me” (316)

“hug Nim” (106)

“tickle Nim” (107)


“more eat” (287)


“banana Nim” (73)

“in pants” (70)









The most frequent three-sign combinations were —

“play me Nim” (81)

“eat me Nim” (48)

“eat Nim eat” (46)

“tickle me Nim” (44)

“grape eat Nim” (37)

“banana Nim eat” (33)

“Nim me eat” (27)

“banana eat Nim (26)

“eat me eat” (22)











The most frequent four-sign combinations were —

“eat drink eat drink” (15)

“eat Nim eat Nim” (7)

“banana Nim banana Nim” (5)

“drink Nim drink Nim” (5)

“banana eat me Nim” (4)

“banana me eat banana” (4)

“banana me Nim me” (4)

“grape eat Nim eat” (4)

“Nim eat Nim eat”

“play me Nim play”

“drink eat drink eat” (3)

“drink eat me Nim” (3)