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.