People have been recognized some similarities with monkeys for a long time now. However, we might share more features with them than we first thoughts. Recent studies focused on their physiology and discovered something crucial. Their mouth and throats can enable them to talk to us, but there’s something else that prevents this from happening.
To this day, any textbook stands by the idea that a monkey cannot use language to communicate. Their explanation regards their physiology which doesn’t display the necessary system for vocalization. However, scientists have proven this theory to be wrong. Today, scientists believe that the only thing that doesn’t allow monkeys to talk is of neurological nature. Their vocal tract is actually designed for speech.
It seems that there are some neural pathways missing which are essential for the capacity to form intelligible words. These can be seen as connections of neurons through which the brain can control the larynx and the tongue. These two are the main organs that can facilitate speech.
However, the study was performed on macaque monkeys only. Scientists monitored Emiliano and X-rayed some of his common gestures and sounds such as yawns, lip-smacks, coos, grunts, and chewing. This way, they were able to capture a full spectrum of movement that happened in the monkey’s vocal tract. Afterward, they used the recorded data to create a 3D computer rendering.
Thanks to these recent studies, scientists discovered that the monkey’s vocal chords would be able to generate most words of human speech. However, even in the scenario where monkeys have adapted their brain to this human feature, their words would be understandable, but they would sound exactly like a human. Even though their speech wouldn’t be perfect, it is still an important discovery. The myth that nonhuman mammals cannot reproduce languages at all is on the verge of being debunked. Scientists still have to carry a further series of tests and studies on other species too to assess the amplitude of this study correctly.
In the future, scientists will be able to train monkey brains to reproduce words. Eventually, monkeys can become the first nonhuman mammal ever to communicate with humans using language.
Image source: 1