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Baboons can make vowel-like sounds comparable to humans

NEW DELHI, Jan 12:
The sounds made by Baboon, an type of Old World monkey, contain vowel-like sounds comparable human speech.
An acoustical analysis of the grunts, barks, wahoos, copulation calls, and yaks from baboons shows that, like people who use several vowels during speech, these nonhuman primates make five distinct vowel-like sounds, according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Louis-Jean Bo?, Grenoble Alpes University, France, and colleagues.
A prevalent idea on the origin of speech is that the low human larynx is required to be able to produce sets of distinct vowels, and that the high larynx of nonhuman primates prevents them from producing the vowels found across human languages.
Thus, scientists believe that language originated relatively recently, within the last 70,000 -100,000 years, and little research on links between the vocalization of nonhuman primates and human speech has been undertaken.
To investigate any such parallels, Bo? and colleagues analyzed 1335 spontaneous vocalizations produced by 15 male and female Guinea baboons in different social contexts, and studied the anatomy of vocal tracts from two baboons that died of natural causes.
The researchers found that baboons produce five sounds that have important similarities with the vowels of human speech.
People from each vowel sound with a precise control of tongue position in the vocal tract, and the anatomical analysis revealed that baboon tongues have the same muscles as human tongues.
This suggests that these monkeys likewise use tongue movements to form each of the vowel-like sounds.
Taken together, these findings suggest that spoken language in people may have evolved from articulatory capacities that were already possessed by our last common ancestor with baboons, or about 25 million years ago. (UNI)


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