From Colin Barras at New Scientist:
The team discovered that male and female baboons each produce four vowel-like sounds. Females produce one that males don’t, and vice versa, so in total there are five distinct vowels. They correspond to the second syllable in “roses”, and the vowel sounds in “you”, “thought”, “trap” and “ah”.
“We believe that one of the major advantages of our study is that we worked on real vocalisations, which were spontaneously produced by baboons in a social context,” says Fagot.
But Philip Lieberman at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, is not convinced. He thinks the researchers have unwittingly processed the baboon calls in a way that accentuates the fundamental frequency of the call and its harmonics.
Johan Bolhuis at Utrecht University in the Netherlands says the results are interesting, but he doubts they will greatly alter our understanding of the origins of human language. “This is, in fact, additional evidence to show that with the ‘speech machinery’ being present, you do not automatically evolve language,” he says. More.
No, you do not “automatically evolve language.” Parrots do a fabulous job of imitating human speech, relative to any primate, and the results are intellectually not far off.
Why is this even under discussion? Why is time wasted on it? If one wants to understand human language it would be far more helpful to intensively catalogue languages that are disappearing due to modern communications. Some, like Everett’s Pirahã, may offer genuine insights. Oh but wait, Everett got blackballed for coming up with stuff no one wanted to hear.
That won’t happen to New Scientist, be sure of it.
See also: New Scientist: Why don’t monkeys talk? But isn’t the point that the monkey doesn’t have the neural wiring because it has nothing to say that would require a human language?
Human language: After Wolfe on Chomsky, Everett finally speaks for himself Chomsky’s theory of language, as will be evident to the reader of Everett’s piece, is on a par with Darwinism. A theory about nothing but itself about how things happen. We could leave it out and nothing would change except the air would be cleaner. Not that Everett says this, of course.
Breaking: We are not “more evolved” than apes… Actually, a variant tradition of pop science bumf holds that primates are in fact evolving into humans or something like that. Wasn’t 2015 the year that apes were entering the Stone Age?
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