Marc Hauser, director of the Cognitive Evolution Lab and co-director of the Mind, Brain & Behavior Initiative at Harvard University, told Discovery News that the new research "is a beautiful set of studies," but "how similar or different [monkey call combinations] are to the combinations of words in language remains, however, unclear."
Asif Ghazanfar, assistant professor of psychology at Princeton University, told Discovery News that he was also impressed by the new research. For a follow-up experiment, he suggested trying to trip up the female monkey listeners.
"One experiment that would've been nice to try is to reverse the order: do playbacks of hack-pyow sequences to see if the temporal order matters to the monkeys, as temporal order can change meaning in human communication," Ghazanfar said.
I have seen no convincing (to me) evidence that any animals use language as I understand it, but I prefer to believe that language is a unique and defining human phenomenon, so I'd be hard to convince. Not impossible, though; show me a parrot that can discuss this question and I'll accept him as a fellow sentient and support his right to drink in my bar.
"I don't speak whale and I don't speak dolphin," Mr Smith told the BBC, "but there was obviously something that went on because the two whales changed their attitude from being quite distressed to following the dolphin quite willingly and directly along the beach and straight out to sea."
He added: "The dolphin did what we had failed to do. It was all over in a matter of minutes."
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