Until now, the assumption has been that only primates have a language that is similar, in structure to the one that we use as humans. But a team of French and Italian researchers made an interesting discovery about the communication of the African penguins.
A similar logic behind the sentence structure
There are two important principles behind the logic of human language. One is Zipf's law, which states that the shortest words are also the most commonly used words. These words are: about, and, the or am.
On the other hand, there is the Menzerath-Altmann law. Paul Menzerath and Gabriel Altmann recognize the following linguistic pattern: The longer a word is, the shorter the syllables of which it is composed, and vice versa. These two linguistic rules are of fundamental importance. Up to the present study, similarities to these principles were only recognized in the languages of some primates.
The research team is studying recordings of the sounds made by penguins wearing glasses in Italian zoos. The results, which will be published in the journal Biology Letters on Wednesday 5 February, are extremely revealing.
Three clearly recognizable tones
Older studies already show that penguins have a complex vocal repertoire consisting of "calls" and "songs". Three different clear tones are used for "ecstatic songs". These would, therefore, be the equivalent of the syllables in our language.
By recognizing these tones, researchers are able to understand how the Jackass Penguins "form their sentences. Of the three tones that are formed by inhaling and exhaling, the shortest (which is about 0.18 seconds long) is the most commonly used. The longest tone lasts 1.14 seconds and is the least used.
Our results show that the song of the Jackass Penguin follows Zipf's Law and the Menzerath Altmann Law. This is the first time in a species outside the primate family that the linguistic laws are observed in the voice sequences...
Other similarities with humans
Does this knowledge bring us closer to the penguin? This is questionable because the researchers admit that it is still necessary to check what exactly is the meaning behind the frequency of use of the "tones".
However, this is by no means the first time we have discovered similarities with the penguin. Not unlike the moment in the summer of 2019 homosexual pair of penguins "adopt" an egg at Berlin Zoo.
Nature is full of surprises. So the Spectacled Penguins are still being researched, but unfortunately, they are threatened with extinction. In the 19th century, they were up to two million specimens. In 2000 there were only 500,000 left, and according to figures from 2011, there may not even be 50,000 left at present.