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Saturday, May 28, 2016

the origin of human language

wolf howling shutterstock 24571180

Wolves’ Calls Provide Clues to Birth of Human Speech

They’re not just howling at the moon. Researcher Holly Root-Gutteridge and a group of scientists have created the world’s most comprehensive collection of canine vocalization recordings, culling sounds from the wild, zoos and even YouTube dog videos. The result? They still don’t know the meanings of wolves’ howls, but different breeds have “cultural” characteristics across continents and, like musicians, some are influenced by the sounds of others. Their research may help illuminate what some call the “hardest question in science” — the origin of human language.

The songs of the wolves

Wolves’ howls are eerie, beautiful and wild. But what are they actually saying to each other?

by Holly Root-Gutteridge
As the heroes fled the dark castle for the darker woods, Count Dracula’s ‘children of the night’ began to make their ‘music’: a distant chorus of lupine howls, echoing through the Transylvanian night. I paused the movie. ‘That’s not a European wolf, the howl’s all wrong!’ I told my long-suffering companion. ‘That wolf belongs in the backwoods of California!’
After hundreds of hours listening to thousands of wolves for my PhD, the difference between howls was obvious. The voice of a Russian wolf was nothing like that of a Canadian, and a jackal was so utterly different again that it was like listening to Farsi and French. I believed that there must be geographic and subspecies distinctions. Other researchers had made this proposition before, but no one had put together a large enough collection of howls to test it properly. A few years later, my degree finished, I told my Dracula story to the zoologist Arik Kershenbaum at the University of Cambridge. He promptly suggested we explore how attuned to wolves I really am. Are there differences between canid species and subspecies and, if so, could these reflect diverging cultures?
When animals call to each other, they are communica/.../

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