Institut Jean Nicod

Accueil > Séminaires/Colloques > Archives > Séminaires > 2014-2015 > Colloquium > Esther Clarke (Durham University)

Esther Clarke (Durham University)

Vendredi 20 février 2015 de 11h30 à 13h

Institut Jean-Nicod, ENS, Pavillon Jardin, 29, rue d'Ulm 75005 Paris. Salle de réunion, RDC.

Séance organisée conjointement avec le séminaire LINGUAE

Esther Clarke
Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, Durham University.

Title: "Vocal communication in white-handed gibbons"

The study of gibbon vocal communication is an interesting comparative tool to examine the evolution of primate vocal communication in general, including human language. In this talk I will firstly discuss the details of my field experiments with wild gibbons in Thailand. Whilst there, I presented gibbons with fake predators from three predator classes: eagle, big cat and snake, and recorded their vocal responses. These responses consisted of mostly loud, protracted “predator songs” which contrasted in a number of ways to gibbons more typical daily “duet songs” sung by adult mated pairs. Some of these differences were based on combinatorial rules and may therefore represent a simple form of syntax, an important element of language. Secondly, I will present evidence that gibbons quieter "hoo" calls are also context-specific, including those given as a unique response to raptors.  Finally, I will discuss my current research project which focuses on testing the hypothesis that female gibbons use their female-specific "great call" to advertise their fertility to listening conspecifics. Interestingly, preliminary data analyses support this hypothesis and also suggest that female gibbons insert an additional element in their great calls when they are fertile.