I wanna talk like you (oo)

December 16, 2011, BioMed Central

The role of social structure in animal communication is hotly debated. Non-human primates seem to be born with a range of calls and sounds which is dependent upon their species. But overlying this there seems to be some flexibility - you can tell where a gibbon lives by its accent. New research published in Biomed Central's open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology used Campbell's monkeys to look in detail at the nature versus nurture question and showed that non-human primate 'language', like humans, is learnt.

Researchers studied free-living Campbell's monkeys (Cercopithecus campbelli campbelli) from the Taï National Park, Ivory Coast. They observed social interactions (time spent grooming) and recorded 'contact calls' made while the females were travelling, foraging or resting. Genetic similarity (family relationships) was determined by microsatellite analysis of DNA isolated from droppings. These monkeys have lived close to the Taï Monkey Project Research Station for more than 10 years so their social structure and family groups are well known. Groups consisted of one male, four or six females, along with their offspring.

Dr Alban Lemasson who led the multi centre team explained, "Each female has its own distinctive vocalisation but they appear to pick up habits from each other. Similarities between 'contact calls' were dependent on the length of time adult females spent grooming each other (and who their grooming partner was) rather than genetic relatedness. This means that while the general call repertoire of non-human primates is dependent on genetic factors, the fine structure within this is influenced by the company they kept. This behaviour also fits with the theory that human speech has evolved gradually from ancestral primate vocalisations and social patterns."

Explore further: Syntax in our primate cousins

More information: Social learning of vocal structure in a nonhuman primate? Alban Lemasson, Karim Ouattara, Eric J Petit and Klaus Zuberbühler, BMC Evolutionary Biology (in press)

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not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
"This behaviour also fits with the theory that human speech has evolved gradually from ancestral primate vocalisations and social patterns". Nothing of the sort. Human accent and dialect maybe but speech with its complexities of syntax, phonetics, specialized breathing, and semantics? More like a cut and paste from a funding application than science.
not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
Gives me pause for thought.

One of the things I fool around with currently are open-faced Skinner-type boxes for wild squirrels (!).....I can tell you they really like Bach's Brandenburg concertos...and they have a vocalization they use to demand another song when the first is over....they stomp their feet at me and mutter some squirrel sounds..and when the next song starts, they lay down, stretch out and close their eyes.

They usually do this at least for at least 2-3 songs.

I can't wait to get some videos up this spring for you guys to see....
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2011
Neuropsychology research has conclusively determined that there is strong isomorphism between elements of perception and elements of (phonemic) language at the neurological motor level. It proves rather irrevocably that we modulate underlying, neurologically embedded speech-producing motor patterns (nuch like FAPs in ethology) at levels of conscious awareness, where the underlying patterns are "user transparent." Of course ancestral vocal patterns existed, modulated, altered and optimised for the propagation of meaning (the encoding of intentionality) by sociocultural, memetic communication in the evolution of the human language spectrum. Semantisation into syntagmatic lexemes is a process of encoding concept into acoustic pattern - it's still ongoing and evolving - study diachronic linguistics, computational linguistics and psychoacoustics and learn more...

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