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Natural World

Dutch chimps start adopting Scottish accent

February 9, 2015 | Comment icon 15 comments



Chimpanzees can adapt their vocalizations to match the local lingo. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Thomas Lersch
Researchers have identified the first ever case of animals actively modifying their use of language.
A group of chimpanzees from the Netherlands that were brought to Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland astonished animal behavior experts when it was discovered that they had adopted the local lingo.

The Dutch chimps originally used a high-pitched grunt to indicate the word "apples" while their Scottish counterparts used a grunt with a lower tone to indicate the same thing. Within three years of arriving in Scotland however the Dutch group had adapted their grunts to match those of the Scottish chimps.
The research suggests for the first time that, like humans, chimpanzees are capable of picking up a new regional 'accent' while still speaking the same language.

"An extraordinary feature of human language is our ability to reference external objects and events with socially learned symbols, or words," said psychologist Dr Katie Slocombe.

"These data represent the first evidence of non-human animals actively modifying and socially learning the structure of a meaningful referential vocalization."

Source: Independent | Comments (15)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by ealdwita 7 years ago
Take a walk (stealthily) down Sauchiehall Street on any Saturday night and you can observe the reverse happening!
Comment icon #7 Posted by Imaginarynumber1 7 years ago
It is not news that animals mimic other animals. Put a chimpanzee from Africa amongst chimpanzees from any other place on earth...of course they will modify their audible tones. That is not what is ridiculous. What is ridiculous is the headline. What is ridiculous is the whole idea that this is scientific earth shattering news. It isn't. It shows a form of proto-cultural behavior. Not all primates would do the same.
Comment icon #8 Posted by highdesert50 7 years ago
The need to obtain food is a powerful motivator for adaptation. One only has to observe the family cat adapt behaviors to motivate you to feed him. Success favors those who observe and adapt.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Sundew 7 years ago
How do you yell "FREEDOM!" in Chimp?
Comment icon #10 Posted by CelticBanshee 7 years ago
Sure aren't they just studying the past when they study this behavior in chimps? Since we're primates, this is maybe an insight into how we evolved to where we are today.
Comment icon #11 Posted by joc 7 years ago
Sure aren't they just studying the past when they study this behavior in chimps? Since we're primates, this is maybe an insight into how we evolved to where we are today. No. Because the chimps have evolved as well.
Comment icon #12 Posted by ChaosRose 7 years ago
Bahahahahahaha!!!! That rocks. I think someone must have told them that they are 98% human. At least they aren't depressed over it.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Imaginarynumber1 7 years ago
No. Because the chimps have evolved as well. Incorrect. About the no,part, not the evolved part. Sure aren't they just studying the past when they study this behavior in chimps? Since we're primates, this is maybe an insight into how we evolved to where we are today. Correct. Humans and the African apes share an ancestor about 7 to 8 million years ago (Possibly longer. We need more fossils). While we have both diverged from that ancestral primate, we are still very similar. All the great apes (and most catarrhines) have complex social systems, use tools and some live in environments that may h... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by Skep B 7 years ago
When the chimps start rockin' kilts then I'll be interested. and thoroughly delighted
Comment icon #15 Posted by Atuke 7 years ago
I've hiked, camped, studied and lived throughout the northeastern US and I can confirm that male Cardinals have different calls and songs in different areas. Males in PA have totally different calls and "accents" than those in New Hampshire. Are these regional differences in bird language from the same specie?


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