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Orangutan copies human speech?

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Must be BBC. Must be summer.

Last summer, chimpanzees were entering the stone age.

This summer, from BBC:

An orangutan copying sounds made by researchers offers new clues to how human speech evolved, scientists say.

Rocky mimicked more than 500 vowel-like noises, suggesting an ability to control his voice and make new sounds.

It had been thought these great apes were unable to do this and, since human speech is a learned behaviour, it could not have originated from them.

Study lead Dr Adriano Lameira said this “notion” could now be thrown “into the trash can”. More.

The reporter must have got something wrong somewhere. Who says humans learned speech from orangutans? It’s not reported that the orangutan started a conversation. The significance of the find must be much less than reported.

Meanwhile, Alex the Parrot could not only use human speech sounds but often appeared to know what effect he was having.

In my (O’Leary for News’) old neighbourhood in Toronto, people would only throw peanuts at squirrels, not starlings. Starlings were much disliked because they muscled out more attractive native birds. So the starlings learned, fairly quickly, to sound like squirrels squawking. If you weren’t paying attention, you couldn’t tell.

Oh well, it’s the slow news season.

See also: Are apes entering the Stone Age?

Sometimes, however, the ape intelligence theme goes over the top. The BBC announced this summer that chimps are now living in the Stone Age, because they smash things with stones. But so do some birds. Are the birds entering the Stone Age too?

One is tempted to ask, what about the octopuses that use halved coconuts as shelters? Are they entering the Wood Age? Are those octopuses that twist jar lids to get food or to escape entering the Age of Plastic?

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One Reply to “Orangutan copies human speech?

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    The Chomsky school , evos all, would also dislike this. They say it was a genetic mutation or something that uniquely happened in humans to start the process towards speech.
    They are not the grunts to grammer crowd that these others are.
    in fact there is no need to find primates using vowels.
    These apes etc could talk today.. They do use tones of voice a great deal. This ios the dominating thing in human speech. Music copying it being the proof.
    In other words having tones already they do not manipulate them into conversation. never mind words etc.
    First things first.

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