Monkey Talk Is Kept Brief: They Don't Like Pointless Banter!

by Tanya Thomas on  January 29, 2010 at 8:37 AM Research News   - G J E 4
 Monkey Talk Is Kept Brief: They Don't Like Pointless Banter!
Monkeys don't like chit chat. They prefer to keep their conversations brief, a new study by British researchers has revealed.

Dr Stuart Semple, an author of the paper from Roehampton University, UK, and colleagues found that macaques use short calls far more often than lengthier vocalisations.

Humans also do this: the words that we use most often, such as "a", "of" and "the", do not take long to say.

According to researchers, the fact that humans and monkeys both share this vocal trait could shed more light on why we communicate as we do.

The relationship between the length of a word and how often it is used is described by the "law of brevity".The law of brevity states that the words we use very often are very short and the words we use very rarely are long," the BBC quoted Semple as saying.

"If the words we used most frequently were very long, our conversations would go on forever, because you use them hundreds of times each day.

"This makes communication more efficient and this seems to hold across all languages," Semple added.

For the study, Semple and team looked at Formosan macaque monkeys (Macaca cyclopsis) living on Mount Longevity, Taiwan.

"We know these macaques rely a great deal on vocal communication, but nobody had looked to answer this particular question," Semple said.

These primates have a repertoire of 35 different calls - although their precise meanings are yet to be determined - and the researchers studied the relationship between the call duration and the rate of its utterance.

"The calls they used most often - greetings, grunts and coos - are really short. This is their everyday chatter, if you like. They keep it short and sweet. The ones that you hear very rarely - the screams and whines - are very long. This is the first time we have seen this in a non-human vocal communication," Semple said.

The researchers said that doing this not only saves time and energy for the macaques, but it also helps to avoid drawing too much unwanted attention from potential predators.

The study has been published in the journal Biology Letters.

Source: ANI

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