If Monkeys Could Talk ...

Tamarins possess skills fundamental to human language: researchers
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2009 3:54 AM CDT
A cotton-top tamarin eats lunch at the Museum of Science in Boston.   (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)
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(Newser) – Monkeys can recognize “incorrect” syllable pattern in words, revealing that species other than human possess the underlying skills necessary for anguage, the BBC reports. Researchers played recordings of made-up words that shared either a common prefix or suffix for two groups of cotton-top tamarin monkey. Tamarins familiarized with either syllable pattern expressed interest when later played a word that broke the pattern.

The tamarins’ ability to recognize temporal ordering  reveals an innate knowledge of temporal ordering, which is one of the buildings blocks of language, according to researcher Marc Hauser. "As a child learns to use the past tense, they may generalize and use a suffix wrongly, but they will never generalize in the wrong direction. You never hear them say ed-walk instead of walked," he explained.