You might remember Koko the gorilla, who became famous for using sign language to communicate with her keepers, and now researchers think she could be trying to talk.
Said researchers, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, claim that she is displaying signs of speech, and after analysing 71 hours of footage of her behaviour, they have found examples of her performing nine behaviours that required ‘control over her vocalisation and breathing’.
Apparently, these are not behaviours you would expect of a ‘typical gorilla’, and that Koko has the potential to enhance her vocal chords.
Postdoctoral researcher Marcus Perlman claimed:
She doesn’t produce a pretty, periodic sound when she performs these behaviours, like we do when we speak. But she can control her larynx enough to produce a controlled grunting sound.
Koko bridges a gap. She shows the potential under the right environment conditions for apes to develop quite a bit of flexible control over their vocal tract. It’s not as fine as human control, but it is certainly control.