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Monkey Vocabulary Decoded

Image result for marmosetsFrom short ‘tsiks’ and ‘ekks’ to drawn-out ‘phees’ — all the sounds produced by marmoset monkeys are made up of individual syllables of fixed length: that is the result of a study by a team of researchers headed by Dr. Steffen Hage of the Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuro-science (CIN) at the University of Tübingen. The smallest units of vocalization and their rhythmic production in the brain of our relatives could also have been a prerequisite of human speech. The study was just published in Current Biology.

The researchers recorded thousands of instances of the little monkeys’ ‘tsiks’, ‘ekks’ and ‘phees’ in a sound chamber. They interrupted the animals’ natural vocalization with white noise at irregular intervals. The researchers effectively ‘talked over’ the monkeys, causing them to fall quiet. Such a rhythm might be an evolutionary prerequisite on the path to developing true speech. The new study demonstrates that research in marmosets can provide the necessary clues to better understand the origins and properties of human speech — a question that has been much debated in the scientific community.

Read the full article here.

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