Talking our language

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Planet of the Apes made real, but the news that gorillas and chimpanzees possess a rudimentary speech centre in their brains is a startling revelation.

It's not quite Planet of the Apes made real, but the news that gorillas and chimpanzees possess a rudimentary speech centre in their brains is a startling revelation.

Scientists in America have discovered that apes have a small, lopsided structure buried in the front part of their head that in humans is critical for the development of language. It lends credence to the idea that there was a common ape-human ancestor that lived more than 5 million years ago.

What's more, apparently, apes share an important habit with humans – they tend to move their right hands when grunting. It seems they also "talk with their hands". It's all very intriguing. The idea of being able to communicate with apes and the notion that, if only they could speak, we would know that they were really just like us and "wanna be like you" has always fascinated humans. How else can we account for the enduring appeal of the PG chimps or The Jungle Book?

If apes have the ability to talk, but have chosen not to use it, it may be the case that our simian cousins are wiser than we think they are. At least this way, even if they think no evil and see no evil, they can also be sure to speak no evil.

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