To overcome their social awkwardness, it seems that monkeys mimic the accents of their neighbours to be friends. Naw, just like us.



That friend of yours who went to London to work for a year and then came back pronouncing ‘book’ like ‘burke’? Or the other friend who went skiing in New Zealand for a season then came home having dropped their ‘i’ vowel sounds like a crazy person? 

Th_s should t_ckle you to b_ts.

ScienceAlert is reporting findings that show monkeys can pick up new ‘accents’ to be more friendly to their neighbours.

The study of the bald-headed white pied tamarins and their cousins, the red-handed tamarins found that while both species share a limited repertoire of calls, when they share the same environment, the red-handed tamarins (endowed with a greater vocal flexibility) changed the frequency and duration of their calls to make them sound like the pied tamarins’ calls – as though they were taking on the same ‘accent’.

Unlike humans, other primates do not use a variety of languages. Instead, they have a fixed number of “calls” within their vocal repertoire that encompass a variety of contexts, such as predator warnings and mating propositions. They cannot learn new calls, said the study’s author, Dr Jacob Dunn, an associate professor in evolutionary biology at Anglia Ruskin University told The Guardian.

“The red-handed tamarin call becomes much more like the pied tamarin’s – and we think that the reason they do this is because when you’re in this shared area and you’re a closely related species, you’re very likely to come into competition over resources, because you’ve got a similar diet and habitat requirements,” Dr Dunn said.

It’s a story that seems to place monkeys as having much more in common with humans than we have been thinking.

Linguistics lecturer at Monash University Howard Manns told ABC Ballarat’s mornings program that our adoption of the native tongue was believed to be based on a subconscious need to “find our tribe”.

“We’re adapting the accent of our immediate social group,” Dr Manns said.

Dr Damien Hall, a linguistics expert at Newcastle University has carried out research into what is known as ‘bidialectalism’ and its causes, and told Esquire that a changing accent is very rarely calculated or contrived.

“Bidialectalism is almost always subconscious. Doing it consciously is very hard indeed,” he said.

“Subconsciously, you always have the impulse to adapt to your surroundings, wherever you are.

“When you go home, you take yourself out of the professional milieu and back to friends and family members who know you well. You relax, because there isn’t that constraint of needing to be understood.”

Americans call it ‘code switching’, and have found that as a practice it is very commonplace.

I once got ridiculed in America for saying “décor” as an Australian (day-caw), rather than a local (d’corre). You don’t make that mistake twice.

So it’s not just monkey see, monkey do, but monkey say, monkey do, too. 






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