Baboons can make human-like speech sounds

This is a great discovery. Now we can work on getting them to actually tell us what it feels like to be captive.

Apparently, baboons can make human-like vowel sounds


When it comes to speech, the lines are being blurred between humans and other primates.

Vowel sounds might not be such a unique characteristic of human vocalizations, as a new study of baboons finds that they, too, produce five vowel sounds in their calls.

Not only could this upend researchers’ ideas of what makes human vocalization unique, it could also suggest the roots of human speech lie much further back in the primate family tree.

To study baboon calls, the researchers first recorded baboon vocalizations for a year. Then they analyzed the recorded calls in search of formants – frequencies of sound that are distinct characteristics of vowels.

Then, using measurements of the baboons’ vocal tracts, the researchers mapped these formants onto the vocal space of baboons and inferred that the animals can produce five different kinds of vowel-like sounds. Their results are detailed in a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE


Journal source: Boe, L-J., et al. (2017).  Evidence of a Vocalic Proto-System in the Baboon (Papio papio) Suggests Pre-Hominin Speech Precursors. PLOS-One. DOI: