Random baboon grunts have led a group of researchers to believe that speech may have started long before they once thought.
Originally language was believed to have originated fully only 70,000 to 100,000 years ago. “Theories of language evolution have developed based on the idea that full speech was only available to anatomically modern Homo sapiens,” said linguist Thomas Sawallis to Scientific American.
Despite the differences in their voice box and larynx compared to ours. Humans have a low larynx which enables us to differentiate vowels – while apes have a higher larynx, which science assumed prevented them from creating specific sounds.
One particular sound the baboons made had observers interested – a loud “wahoo” which strings two sounds together. This stood out among the usual barks and grunts.
They went further and examined the brains and vocal folds of baboons. The found that “the monkeys’ vocal tracts were comparable with those of human children whereas their vocal folds were more similar in size to those of adult humans.”
They also form words using their tongues like we do.
These results conclude that language, speech and early communication could have in fact originated 25 million years ago if apes are able to form vowel sounds.
“If the seeds of speech were planted 25 million years ago instead of 100,000 years ago,” he points out, “that’s an enormous difference,” Sawallis reported.
Loaded staff writer Danielle De La Bastide has lived all over the planet and written for BuzzFeed, Thought Catalog as well as print publications throughout the Caribbean.