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National Public Radio: Ape babble hints at origins of human speech

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An orangutan named Tilda is providing scientists with fresh evidence that even early human ancestors had the ability to make speechlike vocalizations.

Tilda has learned to produce vocalizations with striking similarities to human speech, scientists report in the journal PLOS ONE. If you listen without knowing the source, “you might wonder whether or not it is a human,” says Rob Shumaker, an author of the paper and vice president of the Indianapolis Zoo.

The finding could help answer a big question about our human ancestors’ ability to produce speech before they developed a modern vocal tract and brain. If orangutans and other great apes can make speechlike sounds, it stands to reason that early humans could too, Shumaker says.

She spent so much time with humans that she learned how to smoke cigarettes? [??!!] BAD Orang! bad! bad!

But she still never learned anything but babble?

Maybe in her supposed next life, she will come back as a parrot. Apparently, just learning stuff one doesn’t really get is easier for a bird.

Meanwhile, for a serious look at the issues, see: Can we talk? Language as the business end of consciousness

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8 Replies to “National Public Radio: Ape babble hints at origins of human speech

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    OK, but there is no reason to believe that there was ANY intermediate “apelike human” prior to homo sapiens. And if other primates could always make “humanlike sounds”, why haven’t they invented their own language after 5 or 10 million years?

    Human babies can THINK before they can TALK. Talking is merely a skill human children learn, like walking. But humans already have WORDS in which they compose THOUGHTS (mama, for sure) before they learn the details of the language of their parents.

    If you work on it, you can teach poodles to walk on 2 legs. As far as we know, no poodle EVER walks on 2 legs in the wild, and after years of breeding poodles we still have to teach each one to walk on 2 legs. The same appears to be true with “talking” gorillas and orangutans: it’s a circus trick.

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    But she still never learned anything but babble?

    Fascinating! That means we developed politics much earlier than previously thought.

  3. 3
    ppolish says:

    C’mon, how long have chimps been around. Still not talking unless trained by man. Who trained us.Space Aliens?

  4. 4
    humbled says:

    Agree with Mahuna. Not one shred of evidence, Darwinian fairytales aside, linking humans to any lower forms of life.

    But evidence doesn’t matter. As we’ve seen time and time again, we aren’t battling science but rather a Victorian belief system. These fundamentalists will never give up on their cherished philosophy. We’ll have to remove them kicking and screaming, one icon at a time 😉

  5. 5
    Mapou says:

    humbled:

    Agree with Mahuna. Not one shred of evidence, Darwinian fairytales aside, linking humans to any lower forms of life.

    I am not a Darwinist but you are mistaken. We have a huge number of DNA sequences in common with animals and even plants. What makes us truly different, IMO, is that we were designed to be in communion with a soul/spirit.

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    its all based on wrong ideas about human speech.
    first came the intelligent thinking, as a poster said here, and then speech. in reality Adam spoke right away however.
    The combination of segregated sounds we call words are only a extension of sounds. The next step is just to agree and memorize what combinations of sounds should mean. they can’t do that.
    Another error in all this is misunderstanding that our tONES of voice do much of our talking. watch yourself when you talk!
    So before apes would have words they would have tones. tones of anger,sympathy etc.
    this would dominate their speech before words.
    it doesn’t now except in very basic ways.
    evos are saying speech came before intelligent thoughts.
    nope.

  7. 7
    rvb8 says:

    There are dozens, maybe hundreds of transitional human, and near human fossils. Willfull ignorance of these is not a positive argument for design.

    The austrolopithocine – homo transition is very well documented and is an accepted scientific fact in every modern university in the world, where it is also taught as scientific fact.

    I know this fact irks many people here, but again, your annoyance is a positive argument for exactly nothing.

    I see one of the fine contributors to the design side, has made yet another astoundingly deeply thought out scientific contribution just above at 6. With contributors like this the science of design is looking in fine form.

  8. 8
    AVS says:

    What I find interesting is the fact that under the “comment policy” in the “moderation” link, UD claims to be 100% volunteer. However, in the post asking for donations at the end of last year, UD was referred to as a “mostly volunteer effort.”

    Very interesting…
    Has UD just become someone’s money-making scheme?
    Are the leading IDers simply taking advantage of the average joe to make a quick buck?

    These are the real questions we must be asking!

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