Why Can't Monkeys Speak? Vocal Anatomy Is Not the Problem


  • newswise-fullscreen Why Can't Monkeys Speak? Vocal Anatomy Is Not the Problem

    Credit: Copyright: University of Vienna

    The cognitive biologist Tecumseh Fitch has discovered that monkeys have the physiological conditions to speak.

  • newswise-fullscreen Why Can't Monkeys Speak? Vocal Anatomy Is Not the Problem

    Credit: Copyright: Tecumseh Fitch/University of Vienna

    With their vocal tract, it would be easy for monkeys to produce many different language sounds.

Newswise — The scientists used x-ray video to see within the mouth and throat of macaque monkeys induced to vocalize, eat food, or make facial expressions. They then used these x-rays to build a computer model of a monkey vocal tract, allowing them to answer the question "what would monkey speech sound like, if a human brain were in control?" This showed that monkeys could easily produce many different sounds, enough to produce thousands of distinct words. Examples of synthesized monkey speech can be heard here:

This implies that a basic form of spoken language could have evolved at any time in human evolution, without requiring any changes in vocal anatomy.

Publication in "Science Advances":W. T. Fitch, B. de Boer, N. Mathur, A. A. Ghazanfar, Monkey vocal tracts are speechready.Sci. Adv. 2, e1600723 (2016).DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600723

Scientific ContactUniv.-Prof. Tecumseh FitchDepartment of Cognitive BiologyUniversity of Vienna1090 Vienna, Althanstraße 14 (UZA I)T +43-4277-761 11 tecumseh.fitch@univie.ac.at Press ContactMag. Alexandra FreyPress Office of the University of ViennaResearch and Teaching1010 Vienna, Universitätsring 1T +43-1-4277-175 33M +43-664-602 77-175 33alexandra.frey@univie.ac.atOpen to new ideas. Since 1365.The University of Vienna, founded in 1365, is one of the oldest and largest universities in Europe. About 9,600 employees, 6,800 of who are academic employees, work at 19 faculties and centres. This makes the University of Vienna Austria’s largest research and education institution. About 93,000 national and international students are currently enrolled at the University of Vienna. With more than 180 degree programmes, the University offers the most diverse range of studies in Austria. The University of Vienna is also a major provider of continuing education. www.univie.ac.at

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