Chimpanzees use a fairly rich language to communicate, the “words” of which they are able to combine into “sentences,” experts from the Max Planck University of Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany found out. They described their observations in more detail in an article in the journal Communications Biology.
The researchers analyzed almost 5,000 conversation recordings, totaling about 900 hours, between adult chimpanzees in the Tai National Park in Côte d'Ivoire. They were able to isolate 390 unique vocal sequences.
Although it was obvious before that the sounds made by chimpanzees carry certain information, such a wide range of vocalizations came as a surprise to scientists.
Vocalizations were both single and combined into chains of several and combined in different ways. In total, scientists have identified 12 different types of vocalizations, including grunts, lowing and whining. The use of vocalizations was influenced by the context - for example, a single grunt of a chimpanzee was published at the sight of food, and a series of grunts, more like a pant, as a sign of a submissive greeting.
Although the chimpanzee language is poorer than the human language, it turned out to be much richer and more diverse than previously thought, the researchers note. In addition, there are probably more possible combinations and sounds in it than we have been able to identify. Scientists hope that further research into the language of monkeys will help to learn more about the origin of language in humans.