Last updated at 13:08 BST, Friday, 18 October 2013

Monkeys 'talk in turns'

Summary

18 October 2013

Recordings of monkeys calling to one another have revealed that they take it in turns to make sounds, in a pattern very similar to human conversation. Scientists from Princeton University recorded marmosets as they called each other. The animals would wait several seconds before responding.

Reporter:

Victoria Gill

Marmoset monkey

They can chat too

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Report

(Sound made by a monkey)

These very high-pitched squeaks could provide a clue about the evolutionary route of our own conversational turn-taking.

The Princeton University team recorded these exchanges between marmosets as they sat in opposite corners of a room. The animals were separated by a curtain, so they could hear but not see one another.

After one of the diminutive monkeys called out, the other waited several seconds before responding.

(Sounds made by a two monkeys, one after the other)

The scientists suggest that sounds might contain information that the listener needs to take time to digest.

Whatever the reason for this polite pausing, these simple, squeaky exchanges could illustrate the foundations of the way we communicate - by talking and, perhaps more importantly, listening.

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Vocabulary

high-pitched

(of a sound or voice) very high

evolutionary route

gradual change and development over time

turn-taking

from one to another

exchanges

brief conversations

diminutive

very small

to digest

to consider

foundations

basic elements

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