Ape species-specific communication is grounded on the present, possesses some referential qualities and is mostly used to request objects or actions from others. Artificial systems of communication borrowed from humans transform apes' communicative exchanges by freeing them from the present (i.e. displaced reference) although requests still predominate as the main reason for communicating with others. Symbol use appears to enhance apes' relational abilities and their inhibitory control. Despite these substantial changes, it is concluded that even though artificial communication enhances thought and enables its expression more openly, it does not create it or modify the motivation behind communicative exchanges.