Wednesday, August 14, 2002

CHIMPANZEES LACK SPEECH COMPONENT OF LANGUAGE GENE

Gene explains dumb apes
Great apes lack nuts and bolts of language gene.
15 August 2002
HELEN PEARSON

Chimpanzees lack key parts of a language gene that is critical for human speech, say researchers. The finding may begin to explain why only humans use spoken language.

Last year scientists identified the first gene, called FOXP2, linked to human language. People with mistakes in this gene have severe difficulties with speech and grammar.

Now Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and his colleagues have compared human FOXP2 with the versions of the gene found in the chimpanzee, gorilla, orang-utan, rhesus macaque and mouse....

Language is unique to humans: chimpanzees can be trained to communicate using a complex set of symbols [or sign language], but they can pronounce only a handful of words because they cannot make the required facial movements....