VS-10: Viki says “Mama, Papa, and Cup”

Viki often communicated with gestures, rather than vocal sounds. Viki’s language ability was her weak point, and this presented the most crucial obstacle in the teaching/learning process. She never developed to the point of human children. Even as a baby, when most human children go through a babbling stage, Viki hardly made a sound. However, the experimenters tried to build on what little vocalization she had made and began a vocal training program at 5 months.

The few sounds she would use in play were assigned meanings, and those meanings were then taught to Viki. Their first step was to teach her to vocalize on command for a reward. It took her 5 months to consistently produce even the crudest of sounds. However, as the program progressed, Viki picked up on many sounds quickly.

Many of her sounds made in play resembled the phonetic sounds of the letters p, k, and t. She was taught to repeat these sounds on command for reward. When she had mastered that step, she was then taught to incorporate those sounds to form rough approximations of the words “mama,” “papa,” and “cup.” She could eventually use those words appropriately to refer to the people or objects they represented.

She is seen here saying those words when asked.

Copyright ©1952 by Keith Hayes, used with permission. All rights reserved.