Yes, Baboons can make five distinct vowel-like sounds (which is critically enough to make a speech) much like humans, according to new research which suggests language began to evolve about 25 million years ago, much earlier than previously thought.

For decades, scientists thought that most primates could not produce vowels, sounds fundamental to human speech.But now, researchers report that Guinea baboons, monkeys that inhabit the forests and savanna of West Africa, make five vowel-like sounds similar to those used by humans, this is a compliment along with a past research about  Japanese macaques are also anatomically capable of speech.

The misconception was due to the fact that, Because monkey larynxes are set much higher than our own, scientists thought this anatomical difference explained why primates could not utter vowels, which are “critical for language,” Fagot says. “You can’t have language without them.”So why couldn’t other primates do the same?

Scientists recorded 1404 vocalizations of 15 Guinea baboons.The study revealed that the baboons produced at least five distinct sounds that correspond to vowels in the International Phonetic Alphabet.Further, the baboons regularly combined two vowels in rapid succession into a single call: “Wahoo!” And that means they have “some kind of system for combining and using the sounds”.

The scientists also dissected the vocal tracts of two baboons that died of natural causes. They found that the monkeys’ tongues have the same muscles as human tongues, which indicates they can make precise movements to form each vowel like sound—something scientists had not looked at in such detail before. It is this ability to control the tongue, rather than the position of the larynx, that is key to producing vowel-like sounds, the researchers note.

 

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