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Department of Anthropology

Research Staff

Publication details for Dr Esther Clarke

Clarke, E., Zuberbühler, K. & Reichard, U. H. (2014), Vocal communication in gibbons, in Cartmill, E. A., Roberts, S., Lyn, H. & Cornish, H. eds, 10th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (EVOLANG10). Vienna, Austria, World Scientific Publishing, Hackensack, NJ, 413-414.

Author(s) from Durham


Many non-human primates use vocal communication referentially and also use simple syntax and grammar. However, their comparative vocal repertoires are disappointingly sparse, with many researchers concluding that they have fixed vocal patterns made up of a limited number of discrete units used in a relatively small array of contexts (see McComb & Semple, 2005 for a review). Furthermore, these vocal patterns seem to be innate, under high genetic control with little evidence for vocal learning – something that humans are masters at (Janik & Slater 1997). This leaves us with some questions. Firstly, how did humans become so adept at producing and learning vocal sounds? And, secondly, are there any extant primate species with vocal behaviours that can be directly compared to our own?…


Conference date: 14-17 April 2014