Puzzled monkeys reveal key language step
January 16, 2004 | Source: New Scientists.com News Service
The key cognitive step that allowed humans to become the only animals using language may have been identified, scientists say.
A new study on monkeys found that while they are able to understand basic rules about word patterns, they are not able to follow more complex rules that underpin the crucial next stage of language structure. For example, the monkeys could master simple word structures, analogous to realising that “the” and “a” are always followed by another word. But they were unable to grasp phrase patterns analogous to “if… then…” constructions.