Campbell’s Monkeys Language Deciphered

A group of researchers from University of St. Andrews, Scotland argues that Campbell’s monkeys (Cercopithecus campbelli campbelli) have a primitive form of syntax after spending months of recording their calls as they response to both natural and artificial stimuli. Lead by Dr. Klaus Zuberbühle, the team found that male’s alarm calls are made up of an acoustically variable stem, followed by an acoustically invariable suffix. These calls translate to either a specific alarm call or a non-specific alarm call, depending on the syntax.

I’m not an expert in language and linguistics but these findings are interesting in the development of language and speech in primates. Is there a reason why these monkeys are capable of understanding syntax while apes (such as gorillas and chimpanzees) don’t?

Read the New York Times article here.

Campbell’s Monkeys Use Affixation to Alter Call Meaning by Ouattara et al., (2009)

Originally posted on The Prancing Papio.

3 thoughts on “Campbell’s Monkeys Language Deciphered

  1. Well, it can be argued that we haven’t seen a demonstration of syntax when we teach a human designed language to a chimp or bonobo. But how much of an attempt has there been to decipher ape calls using the same methodology as this study?

  2. You’re right Krax, most of the ape language research were done using human sign language which calls to mind the validity of another species trying to speak like us.

    Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh does comprehensive research on ape language. Unfortunately, I do not have any of her articles that can be viewed for free so I can’t link it to you.

    Here are some interesting chimpanzee vocalizations from Harvard

  3. Yes, and I believe that Savage-Rumbaugh says that there is a good possibility that bonobos have a vocal language that has yet to be deciphered.

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