Scientists pointed out that baboons make the same vowel sounds as we do. For humans, speaking happens naturally. Researchers allow us to have a glimpse of how people managed to develop spoken language. To find an answer, experts decided to analyze non-human primates and their way of communicating. They tried to reveal what exactly makes us unique.
- Apparently, we are not the only primates who can make distinct vowel sounds.
- Researchers have studied baboons’ calls and revealed something spectacular.
- Baboons emit vowel-like sounds which are similar to our vowels.
The first distinction which separates us from our relatives is the placement of the voice box. Other primates apart from humans have a high larynx while we have a low larynx. Thus, scientists believed that to produce different vowel sounds a low larynx is compulsory. The low larynx is necessary for spoken language.
Nevertheless, specialists have changed their mind when coming across this idea. Apparently, vowel sounds might not be a unique characteristic of humans which places us on top of all other primates when it comes to communication. A new study of baboons revealed that the uniqueness of human vocalization is overrated.
Baboons emit five distinct vowel sounds when they call each other. This new finding does not only overturns scientists’ previous thinking, but it could also point out that the roots of human speech originate from somewhere back in the family tree of primates. Researchers recorded baboons’ calls for a year to develop this study.
They have analyzed the recordings searching for formants. Formants represent frequencies of sound which underline different characteristics of vowels. By measuring the baboons’ vocal tracts, specialists managed to map the formants onto baboons’ vocal space. Then, they concluded that these animals could produce five different five distinct vowel sounds.
The new study was published on January 11 in the PLOS ONE magazine. Joel Fagot, one of the study authors and also a cognitive scientist at the French National Center for Scientific Research, argued that every scientist is aware of the fact that any tube can produce a sound which is similar to a vowel. The difference is that they have revealed five different such sounds.
Dr. Fagot claimed that this new study solves a paradox regarding baboon vocalization which was long debated. Baboons, just like any other non-human primates, are known to emit different calls which account for various types of communication. But the common idea was that these primates were not able to make such sounds which would be categorized as being similar to vowels.
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