Putty-nosed monkeys have a ‘language’

This video says about itself:

Putty-Nosed Monkey

23 March 2015

Odzala, Republic of the Congo

Another video which used to be on YouTube used to say about itself:

Orphaned putty nose monkeys at Cercopan‘s primate rehabilitation centre, Calabar, Nigeria.

From British daily The Independent:

‘Pyow-pyow’: how the putty-nosed monkey tells its friends there’s a leopard coming

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

A troop of monkeys in west Africa has been found to use different combinations of calls to convey different meanings in what is believed to be one of the first experimental demonstrations of rudimentary language ability in wild animals.

The putty-nosed monkeys living in Nigeria were already known to use different alarm calls to warn each other about the presence of predators, but now scientists have found that their linguistic ability goes a step further.

Male putty-nosed monkeys are able to combine different types of alarm calls to indicate their identity, what they have seen and whether they intend to flee – and all of this information is recognised by other members of the troop, a study has found.

Klaus Zuberbühler, of St Andrew’s University, said his research into wild putty-nosed monkeys demonstrated that their linguistic ability shows intriguing similarities with human speech, in that they can combine sounds to convey various meanings. “In linguistics, ‘morphemes’ are usually defined as the smallest meaningful units in the grammar of a language. Our research revealed some interesting parallels in the vocal behaviour of forest monkeys and this feature of human language,” he said.

The monkeys have two basic alarm calls – “hacks” and “pyows”, and they use them to warn each other about different predators – for example, a “pyow-pyow” signals a leopard. Dominant male monkeys are also able to combine “hacks” and “pyows” into a unique sequence that conveys important information, such as “I am about to travel, follow me”, according to Dr Zuberbühler, who, with his colleague Kate Arnold, carried out the study published in the journal Current Biology.

The species is also known as greater white-nosed monkey.

Also on Bioko: Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 82 – Pennant’s Red Colobus: here.

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