Chimpanzee language antics

1 minute read

Carl Zimmer has an article in Forbes covering recent experiments in chimpanzee vocal communication.

But don't write off those grunts and hoots just yet, at least according to a new study that appears in the Oct. 15 issue of the journal Current Biology. Katie Slocombe and Kaus Zuberbuhler, two primatologists at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, investigated a particular noise chimpanzees make when they find food, called a "rough grunt." At the Edinburgh Zoo, the scientists fed the chimpanzees two different foods--apples and bread--and recorded the sounds they made. Chimpanzees prefer bread to apples, and Slocombe and Zuberbuhler discovered a corresponding difference in the rough grunts they made for each food. They hit a distinctively high note when they came across the bread, and but made lower and noisier grunts for apples.

It's a short article, supplemented by an entry on the Loom.

This online issue of Forbes

There are a number of short interview excerpts in the issue. One has Noam Chomsky discussing spontaneous language innovation in deaf communities. Another from Jane Goodall on the perils of e-mail communication:

I remember when I worked for Lewis [sic] Leakey, first as his secretary. He was very impulsive. He'd get a letter in the mail, and he would open it, and it would be perhaps something from a scientist he thought was quite ridiculous. You could hear him muttering "Bosh! Rubbish!" The poor bit of paper would be scored with his marks, and he'd turn to me and say "Get so and so on the phone!" I got very wise to his moods, so I would pretend the number was engaged, or the man wasn't there, and then an hour or two later, he was rational again.

And other interviews and articles, with Arthur C. Clarke, Wil Wheaton, Desmond Morris, Steven Pinker and many others. Many thanks to the reader who pointed me to the site.