Baboons Use Human Speech-Like Vowel Sounds

Posted: Jan 12 2017, 3:27am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Baboons Use Human Speech-Like Vowel Sounds
This is a baboon vocalizing. Photo Credit: Getty Images
  • Baboon Grunts contain Vowels that bear a Close Resemblance to Human Speech

It seems that baboon grunts contain vowels that bear a close resemblance to human speech.

Human beings are unique among the animal species for possessing a codified language that allows one generation to pass on its culture to the next one. This is how our knowledge base expands with the passage of time.

Animals have rudimentary speech patterns that are much more primitive than human speech. Take baboons, for example. Their grunts, barking calls, cries during intercourse and general rowdiness shows that they possess some of the vowels that human beings have in their linguistic repertoire.

Human beings use many vowels during the course of their speech patterns. Baboons too use five vowel sounds.

The study regarding this was published in the journal PLOS ONE by Louis-Jean Boë, Grenoble Alpes University, France, and colleagues.

The human larynx or voice box is situated at a lower place in the anatomy. This allows it to produce sets of irregular vowels. However, primates tend to possess a higher larynx and so it had been supposed that they didn’t produce these vowels.

Language probably began between 70,000 and 100,000 years ago. The missing link between primate calls and human speech has always remained enigmatic.

Little if any research had been done on the matter up until now. Yet with this study matters have been put to rest. 1335 vocal calls of 15 male and female Guinea baboons were analyzed by scientists.

These took place in widely different scenarios. Also the anatomy of the larynx of two baboons that had died was examined in detail by the researchers.

Baboons apparently produce five vocalizations that contain vowels that have resemblance to human speech. Even the tongue muscles that are needed to roll off the vowel vocalizations show a similarity between human beings and baboons.

The common ancestors of baboons and humans so many years ago may have had this vowel vocalization-producing capacity. This may have been present some 25 million years ago in the past.

Our animal roots are something about which there can be little if any dispute since the fossil evidence and evolutionary theory pinpoint it so clearly. Change after all is the law of life.

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