(ORDO NEWS) — Monkeys – especially anthropoids – are smart and quick-witted. But they can’t speak. And sing too.
Scientists are at a loss, trying to understand why nature has deprived creatures so similar to us with the ability to make melodic sounds and express their thoughts in words. Even simple ones.
At least interjections. Charles Darwin marveled at this, suggesting that our closest relatives in terms of reason have a differently arranged brain – they say, something is missing in it for the development of speech. And vocal skills.
However, over time, another hypothesis prevailed – the anatomical one. Anthropologists decided that evolution did not physically adapt the vocal apparatus of monkeys to make “human” – that is, sounds that we understand.
Especially vowels, so necessary in songs and in conversations. There should be at least five vowels for more or less meaningful speech.
Hence the conclusion: to expect from a monkey, in scientific terms, “speech configurations”, is the same as trying to perform at least a chizhik-pyzhik on a police whistle.
The opinion about the sound inferiority of monkeys was supported and substantiated by Japanese scientists.
But they came to an unexpected conclusion: the voice apparatus of our closest relatives in terms of reason – both humanoid and not so – is more complicated than that of humans.
Evolution gradually simplified ours so that we could eventually speak and sing, but left the monkeys unchanged. So they are expressed incoherently and non-melodiously – wild inarticulate and, as a rule, shrill cries.
The results of the study, which was also attended by European colleagues, scientists recently reported in the journal Science.
“Paradoxically, as human communication has become more complex, our vocal anatomy has become simpler,” says study leader Takeshi Nishimura of the Center for the Evolutionary Origins of Human Behavior (EHUB) in Kyoto.
In monkeys, thin ribbons of some kind of membranes come out of the vocal cords. People don’t have that. From this we easily control the amplitude and frequency of sound vibrations. In our country only ligaments vibrate, while in monkeys the entire complex structure vibrates.
“Changes were necessary for the evolution of spoken language,” adds Nashimura. “We have shown that the simpler the morphology of the vocal cord, the easier it is to control its vibrations. Anatomical simplification has given voice stability, accelerating the accuracy with which humans generate sounds.
Monkeys could talk
Asif Ghazanfar of Princeton University (Princeton University) and his colleagues at the University of Vienna claim that the vocal apparatus of monkeys in general is quite functional. Specifically, their ligaments, larynx, tongue, lips are able to generate humanoid sounds and combine them into words.
With a corresponding article containing a very controversial conclusion, scientists once appeared in the journal Science Advances, unambiguously titled it “Monkey vocal tracts are speech-ready” (The vocal tract of monkeys is ready to talk).
Scientists discovered the hidden ability of monkeys by taking x-rays of the throat of a macaque named Emiliano in its various states. A total of almost a hundred of them were captured.
Further, a special program selected and synthesized sounds that would correspond in frequency and timbre to one or another of the identified configurations of the macaque’s vocal apparatus. Scientists emphasize that the male would make these sounds himself if he wanted to.
Emiliano didn’t want to. But the researchers demonstrated how he would have sounded the phrase “Will you marry me?” (Will you marry me?). Rough, creaky, hoarse, but quite recognizable.
A few years ago, geneticists at UCLA and Emory identified a gene called FOXP2 that they believe is directly related to the ability to speak. Monkeys have a similar gene. But it is slightly different from the human – the difference is only two amino acids.
Scientists do not exclude that a barely noticeable genetic deviation became the reason for the silence of our smaller brothers. Because of it, they cannot control the muscles of the mouth and larynx in such a way as to make sounds that we understand.
But who knows, maybe Darwin was not far from the truth. A mutation in the FOXP2 gene could well have changed the monkeys’ brains, depriving them of the ability to develop speech. Or, on the contrary, gave us such an opportunity. Including simplifying people‘s vocal cords.
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