The Asian elephant, nicknamed Kaushik can imitate human speech, saying in Korean words that are easily able to understand those who speak the language. However, the elephant makes it a rather unusual way: he utters a sound, holding his trunk in his mouth.
Animal vocabulary consists of exactly five words, the researchers report in the current issue of the journal Current Biology. It includes the following words: "annyong" ("hello"), "anja" ("sit down"), "aniya" ("no"), "nuo" ("positive") and "choah" ("good") . Verbal ability Kaushik help to better understand the biology and evolution of complex learning sounds, ability, which plays an important role in human speech and music, the researchers note.
"Human speech involves two important aspects - the tone and timbre," - explained Stoger Angela (Angela Stoeger) from the University of Vienna. "What is striking is that the elephant Kaushik able to combine these two aspects, he repeats the sounds of human speech, and the tone of the votes of its handlers. This indicates the presence of a long vocal tract and other anatomical differences in the vocal apparatus of elephants and people."
First of all, Stoger noted that elephants instead of lips - the trunk. Most of the larynx allows animals to play sounds in a very low-key, but it Kaushik has the same tone and a number of other characteristics inherent in his trainers. Structural analysis of the speech Kaushik showed not just clear similarities with its human voices, but also clear differences from its usual call sign elephants.
As previously reported on sound mimicry observed in both African and Asian elephants have. African elephants have been known to mimic the sound of a truck engine, and the male Asian elephant, who lives in a zoo in Kazakhstan could utter the phrase, as in Russian and Kazakh languages. However, this case has never been scientifically studied.
The researchers are not yet able to explain the behavior Kaushik, but they suggest that this is due to the events of his childhood elephant. Kaushik was the only elephant living in the Everland Zoo in South Korea for nearly five years (the most important period for the development of the animal). During this period he contacted only with people.
"We propose that the way Kaushik tried to adapt to their human companions to strengthen social ties, which can also be found in other species of animals that learn to speak with a human voice," - said in conclusion Stoger.
Original: Livescience.com Translation: M. Potter