For example, the loud alarm “huus” calls and even louder “waa” barks were more likely to be produced in the presence of a friend rather than a non-friend. And when the team tracked the gaze of the alarm-calling chimp,they found the animal watched the other chimps around them as they reacted.
Crucially, they found that the alarm huus and waa barks continued until all other chimps were a safe distance from the snake, suggesting the cries were goal-directed, and not merely an automated fear-response.
“Chimpanzees seem to produce these calls tactically and target important individuals who are valuable to them,” the team write in the paper.
(A competing theory suggests that language evolved from hand gestures.)
Two problems come to mind: These are, as another researcher pointed out, alarm signals, not conversation. One might add that it is not clear why such a system would develop into a language. Many animal species behave the same way as chimps, and the alarm signals never seem to have developed into a language.
Principally, one supposes, for the same reasons that my household alarm system never developed into an entertainment centre. – O’Leary for News