Chimps may understand language too

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CHIMPANZEES may have the ability to understand language, study shows.

One of the basic differences between us and one of our closest evolutionary cousins has been the ability to perceive and process speech, scientists have always maintained.

A common ancestor of chimps and humans evolved with the capacity for speech.

Human’s mastery of language could be due to being exposed to language when they are very young rather than any innate ability, a case of practise makes perfect, scientists now suspect.

This comes from new research with a 25-year-old chimp called Panzee who can ‘interpret’ highly distorted speech sounds in a way similar to humans.

He can also interpret symbols and understand more than 100 spoken and digitised words, including a symbol for his own name.

“I think our results just reinforce the fact that experience matters,” said Lisa Heimbauer, a researcher at Georgia State University’s Language Research Centre.

“Humans maybe do not perceive speed because they are human, but instead because of the tremendous amount of experience they have from birth.”

Chimps share 99 per cent of their DNA with humans and recent research said that only ‘junk DNA’ separates us from our cousins.

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