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Why Orangutans May Be Key to Understanding the First Human Words

Science By
Orangutan alarm cries may be the basis of the first human words. (Oliver Clarke/Flickr)
Orangutan alarm cries may be the basis of the first human words. (Oliver Clarke/Flickr)

 

Maybe it all started with “kiss squeak” noises. That is the noise primates make to alert others of danger. Scientists have been studying the orangutan’s version of the sound and discovered it contains a surprising amount of information. Indeed, Liverpool John Moores University Professor Serge Wich says that these noises contain info ranging from the orangutan’s gender to context details on the danger. Orangutans even use leaves to alter the sound, putting them inside or in front of their mouths.

This discovery is significant because it is possible that these communications are the building blocks of words. It came as a particular surprise because the noise is consonant-like and it was believed that vowels were key to speech evolution.

To read more about this research, click here. Listen to the noise in the video below.

 

RealClearLife Staff