What's the opposite of the singularity? How about the idea that multiple species on the planet are secretly capable of conversation, they just won't talk to us? Researchers at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute are creeping out anyone ready to listen with a Science Advances report showing that macaque monkeys do have vocal chords capable of articulate speech. This is pretty surprising, given the previous decades of work which suggested that physical inability was what separates us speaking primates from our hairier neighbors. Turns out we're not so different after all.
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Prior autopsies and molds taken from monkeys' larynxes lead researchers to believe that physical limitation of the vocal tract makes human ranges of vocalization impossible in other primates. This new study uses x-ray video of living macaque monkeys to record in-use range while vocalizing, eating and making facial gestures. Turns out we were wrong. The upshot is this pretty surprising, and let's say semi-ominous, simulation of what a macaque's vocal language would sound like.
This leads the researchers to conclude that our differences are largely mental. These findings, like most good ones, raise many more questions. What neural barriers to spoken language exist, and can isolating them illuminate the hazy parts of human language development? How does macaque anatomy compare with our closer cousins, the chimpanzees? Can the missing neural component be learned? Or externally introduced?
Most importantly, are we living in the grittiest reboot of Planet of the Apes yet?