December 29, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Language Evolved from Whistling

Meet Bonnie, the whistling orangutan.  According to National Geographic News, she is giving evolutionary anthropologists something to talk about: the evolution of human language.  NG reported on a new theory:

Lead author Serge Wich of the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, said orangutans in Indonesia have been seen pretending to wash clothes.  “We know they are capable of imitating these motor skills, but we never had any good indication of sounds for vocalization,” said Wich, who presented his research on December 18 during a symposium at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.
    The next step is to study how flexible sound-learning is in apes and whether they can adjust their sounds—pitch and intonation, for instance—depending on the context, Wich said.
    “Those things are very important because they give us clues to understanding the evolution of human speech,” he said.

Charles Snowden of the University of Wisconsin, however, noted that Bonnie’s whistles are not as complex as those of some birds and dolphins.  “Until now there has been little evidence of direct imitation of vocalizations by a primate,” Snowden said.  “The really interesting question is why it is so difficult to find [more] good evidence of vocal imitation.

Everybody knows that birds evolved language from humans.  That’s why they parrot us.  Orangutans evolved whistling and clothes-washing from humans, too.  That’s why they ape us.
    You’ll notice that the honorable, reliable, rational, scientific, enlightened National Geographic Society had no qualms about printing the latest Darwinian silliness.  Maybe they should stick to taking photos; that’s about all they brag about these days.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Early Man

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