Seminar Series

Chimpanzee vocal communication: evolutionary links to human language?

Human language is an extremely complex behaviour and it is likely that language builds on cognitive capacities which evolved long before humans diverged from the rest of the primates. The comparison of communicative and cognitive capabilities in non-human primates and humans, is a promising approach to furthering our understanding of which elements of language are phylogentically old and which are unique to humans. Great apes play a critical role in evolutionary models of human behaviour, however, surprisingly very little research has been conducted on their natural communication. I will outline the observational and experimental research I have conducted with wild and captive chimpanzees exploring various facets of their vocal communuication system and to the extent to which these may represent precursors to human communicative abilities.