Chimpanzee alarm call production meets key criteria for intentionality
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Determining the intentionality of primate communication is critical to understanding the evolution of human language. Although intentional signalling has been claimed for some great ape gestural signals, comparable evidence is currently lacking for their vocal signals. We presented wild chimpanzees with a python model and found that two of three alarm call types exhibited characteristics previously used to argue for intentionality in gestural communication. These alarm calls were: (i) socially directed and given to the arrival of friends, (ii) associated with visual monitoring of the audience and gaze alternations, and (iii) goal directed, as calling only stopped when recipients were safe from the predator. Our results demonstrate that certain vocalisations of our closest living relatives qualify as intentional signals, in a directly comparable way to many great ape gestures. We conclude that our results undermine a central argument of gestural theories of language evolution and instead support a multimodal origin of human language.
Schel , A M , Townsend , S W , Machanda , Z , Zuberbuehler , K & Slocombe , K E 2013 , ' Chimpanzee alarm call production meets key criteria for intentionality ' PLoS One , vol 8 , no. 10 , e76674 . DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076674
© 2013 Schel et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
BBSRC-funded, but difficult to identify the specific grant.
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