Nonhuman primates are our close counterparts in the animal kingdom. Science poses interesting questions regarding the similarity of nonhuman primates to humans. Can monkeys learn to speak like humans do, and, if so, what would they sound like?
Research suggests that primates could master speech if their brains were wired to do so. In 2016, researchers designed a model with all possible sounds that could be constructed with a monkey’s vocal chord, using an x-ray video. They discovered that the monkey was capable of sounding vowels and the sounds that are necessary for human speech. They then ran the sounds into a computer simulation program and discovered that a monkey could make human sounds. The synthesized version of the phrase, “Will you marry me?,” indicated that the primates’ vocal tracts are ready for human speech (although there is a strange accent). It implies that the main issue is neurological: their brains are not wired for human speech.
Nobody knows when humans learned to speak, but there have been many investigations into this. It is commonly accepted that all primates have the ability to speak but have no neural control over the process. Some biologists believe that the answer to when humans learned language lies in our genetics, such as the FOXP2 gene. A tiny mutation in this gene could be the reason why humans can speak while primates cannot.
Will We Be Ruled by Monkeys Soon?
For those fearing a Planet of the Apes type of scenario, do not get too alarmed yet. We remain, as of right now, far ahead of our animal counterparts in the most critical ways. While the results are quite impressive, primates have no means of learning a human language unless we teach them. However, they could develop their own languages.