Primates, penguins and the evolution of language

Analyses of human language and the behaviour of a range of non‐human animal species have provided evidence for a common pattern underlying diverse behavioural phenomena. This is a longstanding research interest of CRESIDA’s Stuart Semple, who has extensively studied this phenomenon in primates – including a recent study demonstrating that compression underpins chimpanzee gestural communication. Drawing on Stuart’s research, a new study on penguin vocal communication has found that the display songs of the African penguin also exhibit information compression, providing further evidence of shared behaviour patterns not just between humans and primates, but also non-primates as well. Stuart’s commentaries on the implications of this study can be seen in his recent interviews with the The Guardian and with Martha Kearney from BBC Radio 4’s Today program – which can be viewed below.



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