Even monkeys have their grammar in place
London, July 8 (ANI): Even monkeys can save you from making grammatical blunders, for scientists have found that the non-human primates can intuitively recognise some rules of grammar.
A study on cotton-topped tamarin monkeys (Saguinus oedipus) has shown that though the animals cannot communicate using language, they do possess some language skills that are linked to very basic memory functions.
Led by Ansgar Endress at Harvard University, the study was aimed at determining whether a grammatical structure, called affixation, is independent of language.
Affixation is the addition of syllables, either at the beginning or at the end of a word, to modify its meaning, and it is used in English as well as many other languages.
If affixation would prove to be independent of language, then it would suggest ways that children might be learning grammatical structures.
Thus, the researchers studied 14 cotton-top tamarins, which, like all other non-human primates, do not use language to communicate.
They first played a sequence of nonsensical "words" to the monkeys that all had the same prefix, like "shoybi", "shoyka", and "shoyna".
The following morning, the animals were played a different set of entirely new words.
They hypothesised that if the monkeys could recognise the prefix pattern they had heard the day before, they would be more likely to look at the loudspeakers when they heard a word that violated the grammatical pattern.
"This is exactly what they did," New Scientist magazine quoted Endress as saying.
The team found the same result when they familiarised the monkeys with words that had suffixes, then mixed in a few prefixes.
Endress said that though the tamarins appeared to understand the prefix and suffix patterns without being trained with food rewards, that did not prove that they have language and grammar.
But it does suggest that their memory is able to recognise certain linguistic patterns, he claimed.
The results suggest that grammar may have evolved from this basic memory structure.
It could also explain how rules like the English past-tense are learned. (ANI)