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  Chimpanzees produce diverse vocal sequences with ordered and recombinatorial properties

Girard-Buttoz, C., Zaccarella, E., Bortolato, T., Friederici, A. D., Wittig, R. M., & Crockford, C. (2022). Chimpanzees produce diverse vocal sequences with ordered and recombinatorial properties. Communications Biology, 5(1): 410. doi:10.1038/s42003-022-03350-8.

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Girard-Buttoz, Cédric1, 2, 3, Author
Zaccarella, Emiliano4, Author           
Bortolato, Tatiana1, 2, Author
Friederici, Angela D.4, Author           
Wittig, Roman M.1, 2, 3, Author
Crockford, Catherine1, 2, 3, Author
Affiliations:
1Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Lyon, France, ou_persistent22              
2Taï Chimpanzee Project, Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques (CSRS), Abidjan, Ivory Coast, ou_persistent22              
3Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, ou_persistent22              
4Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_634551              

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 Abstract: An analysis of the structural complexity of vocal sequences in chimpanzees in the Tai National Park reveal that single vocal units are combined into numerous structured sequences with adjacency dependencies between units.

The origins of human language remains a major question in evolutionary science. Unique to human language is the capacity to flexibly recombine a limited sound set into words and hierarchical sequences, generating endlessly new sentences. In contrast, sequence production of other animals appears limited, stunting meaning generation potential. However, studies have rarely quantified flexibility and structure of vocal sequence production across the whole repertoire. Here, we used such an approach to examine the structure of vocal sequences in chimpanzees, known to combine calls used singly into longer sequences. Focusing on the structure of vocal sequences, we analysed 4826 recordings of 46 wild adult chimpanzees from Tai National Park. Chimpanzees produced 390 unique vocal sequences. Most vocal units emitted singly were also emitted in two-unit sequences (bigrams), which in turn were embedded into three-unit sequences (trigrams). Bigrams showed positional and transitional regularities within trigrams with certain bigrams predictably occurring in either head or tail positions in trigrams, and predictably co-occurring with specific other units. From a purely structural perspective, the capacity to organize single units into structured sequences offers a versatile system potentially suitable for expansive meaning generation. Further research must show to what extent these structural sequences signal predictable meanings.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2021-07-302022-04-102022-05-16
 Publication Status: Published online
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 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1038/s42003-022-03350-8
PMID: 35577891
PMC: PMC9110424
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Grant ID : 679787
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Funding organization : European Union

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Title: Communications Biology
Source Genre: Journal
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Publ. Info: London : Springer Nature
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 5 (1) Sequence Number: 410 Start / End Page: - Identifier: ISSN: 2399-3642
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/2399-3642