Newswise — Dr Adriano R. Lameira, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick, has been awarded a prestigious UKRI Future Leader Fellowship, for his project: The ape and the first word: Understanding the origins and evolution of the first linguistic structures in the human clade through comparative research.

The fellowship scheme is awarded to the best researchers in the UK, keeping research and innovation in the UK world class. Dr Lameira has been awarded £1.2 million, to help understand the origins of human speech and language.

Dr Lameira is an expert in primatology and studies the vocal and cultural behaviour of great apes as a living model of the behaviour of humans’ ape-like ancestors. Because brains and behaviour do not fossilize, this approach will allow to unveil new clues about the origins of human behaviour and the human mind. After having spent many years in the jungles of Indonesia observing and living alongside wild orangutans, he is now hoping to solve one of the longest standing puzzles of evolution – the evolution of human language.

His previous research has included looking at how humans learnt to dance from Chimpanzee conga and how Chimpanzees can help trace the evolution of human speech back to ancient ancestors.

Upon receiving his award Dr Adriano Lameira, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick comments:

“I am delighted to have been awarded a UKRI Future Leader Fellowship, I plan to expand my research from orangutans to all living great apes species, as well as other major branches of the primate family, to help better understand the mysterious process that enable an ancestral ape to so radically depart from its contemporaries and progress along a path that ultimately led it become who we are today!”.

“This grant will specifically help us to resolve how the sounds of our ape-like forerunners were combined to compose the first syllables and the first-words, marking one of the largest transitions of intelligent life on Earth – the emergence of a linguistic system that allows its users to conceive and transmit infinite concepts, messages and knowledge.”

Announcing the successful fellows at today’s Future Leaders Conference, Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “We are committed to building back better through research and innovation, and supporting our science superstars in every corner of the UK.

“By backing these inspirational Future Leaders Fellows, we will ensure that their brilliant ideas can be transferred straight from the lab into vital everyday products and services that will help to change all our lives for the better.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with freedom and support to drive forward transformative new ideas and the opportunity to learn from peers right across the country.

"The fellows announced today illustrate how the UK continues to support and attract talented researchers and innovators across every discipline to our universities and businesses, with the potential to deliver change that can be felt across society and the economy."


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