Grammar grasped by monkeys

17th July 2009 at 01:00

Teachers may think it, but they don't often say it: "Why can't my pupils get the hang of this? Even a monkey could work it out."

Well now scientists have proved that monkeys can, in fact, work it out, especially when it comes to grammar. In the journal Biology Letters, researchers say that cotton-top tamarins (little black and white monkeys to you and me), are able to spot bad grammar.

In an experiment, monkeys were played a series of different words that all shared either the first or second syllable. When the pattern was broken, the monkeys displayed more interest - typically by looking at the speaker inquisitively, according to researchers.

"Simple temporal ordering is shared with non-human animals," says Professor Marc Hauser. It proves that monkeys and children learn to communicate by getting used to things happening in a certain order - so primates and primary pupils could be more similar than you think.

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