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Why can't apes learn to speak like a human ?


Posted on Sunday, 20 July, 2014 | Comment icon 40 comments

Chimps can learn to use human sign language. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Thomas Lersch
Is it possible for apes to speak English like in the new 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' movie ?
In the hit summer blockbuster the ability to speak is just one of the human-like traits that the mutant primates possess, but in the real world we have yet to see any non-human species of primate learn how to talk like we do.

Given that it is possible to teach a chimp how to communicate using sign language, why is it that apes are unable to form words and sentences ? Is it down to a lack of intelligence or are they just physically incapable ?

One notable example of primate communication can be found in the case of a 33-year-old bonobo called Kanzi. Through many years of observing and interacting with humans Kanzi was able to learn how to understand human language sentences and could respond accurately to verbal instructions. His responses, however, were far from human - he couldn't speak the words himself even though he did understand some of them.

The biggest problem is that the vocal chords in non-human ape species operate differently to our own, rendering the recitation of human vocalizations impossible.

On top of this there is also the fact that non-human primates are unable to fully understand the concept of syntax, meaning that while a chimp learning sign language can communicate certain words and phrases it has no concept of forming complex sentences.

So while apes are undeniably remarkable in their ability to communicate with us, a combination of mental and physical limitations mean that the idea of a chimp having a full conversation with you in English is something that must for now remain firmly rooted in the realms of science fiction.

Source: Yahoo! News | Comments (40)

Tags: Apes, Monkey

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #31 Posted by qxcontinuum on 22 July, 2014, 3:26
We humans were never apes entirely, we have gotten something thhat modified us genetically giving us the qualities we needed to became humans.
Comment icon #32 Posted by kapow53 on 22 July, 2014, 3:52
Not in a million years
Comment icon #33 Posted by redhen on 22 July, 2014, 4:26
We humans were never apes entirely, we have gotten something thhat modified us genetically giving us the qualities we needed to became humans. Let me guess, aliens?
Comment icon #34 Posted by Redefining Success on 22 July, 2014, 11:32
They can speak like us, they wait till we have gone.
Comment icon #35 Posted by TheGreatBeliever on 22 July, 2014, 13:16
Don mind one as a pet if it can speak
Comment icon #36 Posted by :PsYKoTiC:BeHAvIoR: on 22 July, 2014, 14:56
Why can't we just rig them up with a Box like Steven Hawking, or the dog off Up? We could hear a lot of "mine" and "give me"..... SQUIRREL!!!
Comment icon #37 Posted by MJNYC on 23 July, 2014, 14:15
Not only can they talk, and not just imitate, they are also highly intelligent and according to the Cambridge Declaration; "Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots." And this reminded me of Alex, the African Grey. Thank you for posting this. I had never heard of Alex and I'm just amazed. So sorry he died, not sure why they didn't say why he died.
Comment icon #38 Posted by Rei4ever on 4 August, 2014, 14:44
Because of Limitations or because we never teach them to speak or read! Its a matter of time and evolution! And because humans has dna's of et's......
Comment icon #39 Posted by danielost on 4 August, 2014, 16:30
All animals speak their own language. For instance cats world wide use the meow for humans. They can make over one hundred sounds and they all use the same one when dealing with humans.
Comment icon #40 Posted by qxcontinuum on 5 August, 2014, 2:55
Let me guess, aliens? Why not? It's a theory that can stand up much better than Darwinism


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