from the oo-ee-oo-ah-ah-ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang dept.
Researchers from the University of Warwick's Department of Psychology set out to collect empirical data to investigate the model. They selected a range of sounds from previously collected audio recordings of orangutan communications. Specific consonant-like and vowel-like signals were played out and re-recorded across the rainforest at set distances of 25, 50, 75 and 100 meters. The quality and content of the signals received were analyzed.
[...] The team found that although the quality of the signal may have degraded, the content of the signal was still intact—even at long distance. In fact the informational characteristics of calls remained uncompromised until the signal became inaudible. This calls into question the existing and accepted theory of language development.
Dr. Adriano Lameira, an evolutionary psychologist from the University of Warwick, led the study. He said:
"We used our bank of audio data recordings from our studies of orangutan in Indonesia. We selected the clear vowel-like and consonant-like signals and played them out and re-recorded them over measured distances in a rainforest setting. The purpose of this study was to look at the signals themselves and understand how they behaved as a package of information. This study is neat because it is only across distance that you can hope to assess this error limit theory—it disregards other aspects of communication like gestures, postures, mannerisms and facial expressions.
"The results show that these signals seem to be impervious to distance when it comes to encoding information.
Adriano R. Lameira, António Alexandre, Marco Gamba, et al. Orangutan information broadcast via consonant-like and vowel-like calls breaches mathematical models of linguistic evolution, Biology Letters (DOI: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2021.0302)