Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

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Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#1  Postby Calilasseia » Dec 15, 2016 12:37 am

New Scientist has this article devoted to recent research into primate vocalisation. In particular, one team of scientists has found, by monitoring in real time the flexibility of the vocal tract, that macaques, contrary to previous thoughts, possess the flexibility of the vocal tract required to produce speech, in a manner similar to humans. The scientists argue that whilst macaques have a "speech ready" vocal tract, they do not yet have a "speech ready" brain to control it.

A more technical coverage is provided by the scientific paper:

Monkey Vocal Tracts Are Speech-Ready by W. Tecumseh Fitch, Bart de Boer, Neil Mathur * Asif A. Ghazanfar, Science Advances 2: e1600723 (9th December 2016) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600723 [Full paper downloadable from here]

Fitch et al, 2016 wrote:For four decades, the inability of nonhuman primates to produce human speech sounds has been claimed to stem from limitations in their vocal tract anatomy, a conclusion based on plaster casts made from the vocal tract of a monkey cadaver. We used x-ray videos to quantify vocal tract dynamics in living macaques during vocalization, facial displays, and feeding. We demonstrate that the macaque vocal tract could easily produce an adequate range of speech sounds to support spoken language, showing that previous techniques based on postmortem samples drastically underestimated primate vocal capabilities. Our findings imply that the evolution of human speech capabilities required neural changes rather than modifications of vocal anatomy. Macaques have a speech-ready vocal tract but lack a speech-ready brain to control it.
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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#2  Postby crank » Dec 15, 2016 1:33 am

They might not be able to talk, but I bet they could be trained to say all kinds of things, if they're right about this. The monkeyshine possibilities are endless.
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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#3  Postby mingthething » Dec 16, 2016 3:55 am

i have a creationist friend proudly displaying this article on his page. I don't know why. Perhaps this feeds into his belief that us Homo sapiens are unique in having speech capability.

I pointed out sarcastically that this does seem like 'intelligent design' to have vocal cords that produce speech but no brain power to go with it.
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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#4  Postby crank » Dec 16, 2016 7:55 pm

What about the few birds with this ability?

I think the biggest implication of this is there are going to be a lot of macaque Kokos out there, getting subjected to all kinds of undignified BS. The last sentence in the quoted block says "Our findings imply that the evolution of human speech capabilities required neural changes rather than modifications of vocal anatomy.", this seems weird to me. I don't know the history in this area much at all, but surely, no one thought we got speech primarily through anatomy changes? I thought it was the other way around, we developed speech, vocal tract changes lead to better speech so were selected for. It seems bizarre to say vocal abilities lead to developing speech, or maybe that should be 'allowed for the development of speech', but that also seems bizarre to me.
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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#5  Postby tuco » Dec 16, 2016 8:29 pm

Well, this is not really news for hairless monkeys ;)

Not ready brain .. why is it not ready?
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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#6  Postby PensivePenny » Dec 16, 2016 8:49 pm

tuco wrote:Well, this is not really news for hairless monkeys ;)

Not ready brain .. why is it not ready?


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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#7  Postby tuco » Dec 16, 2016 8:52 pm

No, I refer to humans as hairless monkeys. How else? Lets go to philosophy .. we are humans we are special!

Still, seems interesting to me that species having an ability - organ to produce speech - have not evolved another organ - brain - to utilize possible evolutionary advantage.
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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#8  Postby The_Piper » Dec 17, 2016 2:39 am

:popcorn:
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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#9  Postby crank » Dec 17, 2016 3:10 am

tuco wrote:No, I refer to humans as hairless monkeys. How else? Lets go to philosophy .. we are humans we are special!

Still, seems interesting to me that species having an ability - organ to produce speech - have not evolved another organ - brain - to utilize possible evolutionary advantage.

I don't think evolution pops out something with the complexity of language with quite the regularity it takes eyes from cave dwellers. Some birds do quite well with speech mimicking, and they're not hurting in the intelligence department. How long have they had such vocal abilities? Why don't we find a John Para-keats yet?
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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#10  Postby felltoearth » Dec 17, 2016 5:44 am

No.
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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#11  Postby igorfrankensteen » Dec 17, 2016 2:06 pm

My own suspicion is that this study was secretly paid for by Trump, as preparation for a lawsuit against these monkeys for failing to respond appropriately when he spoke to them at a zoo. "They clearly CAN talk, so they must be refusing to cooperate, willfully!"
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Re: Monkey Vocal Tracts Can Produce Speech

#12  Postby crank » Dec 17, 2016 3:53 pm

Do monkees hurl shit like chimps? That would be the appropriate response to enduring Trump trying to talk to them.

Side note, just found this little gem while trying to find whether monkees do the flinging feces thing, from Image:

Researches find poop-throwing by chimps is a sign of intelligence
Surprisingly, they found that chimps that both threw more and were more likely to hit their targets showed heightened development in the motor cortex, and more connections between it and the Broca’s area, which they say is an important part of speech in humans. The better chimp throwers, in other words, had more highly developed left brain hemispheres, which is also, non-coincidently, where speech processing occurs in people.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2011-11-poop-throw ... e.html#jCp

[emphasis added]
Looks like the macaques might need to get with the shit slinging thing before they'll develop speech.
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