Elephant learned to talk out of loneliness - scientists say
AN elephant which can imitate human speech is believed to have learned to speak five basic words out of lonliness so that he could interact with humans.
South Korean elephant Koshik speaks by sticking his trunk in his mouth
Koshik has five words in his vocabulary - ‘annyong’ (hello), ‘anja’ (sit down), ‘aniya’ (no), ‘nuo’ (lie down) and ‘choah’ (good).
Researchers don’t believe he understands what he is saying but say he may have picked up speech in his formative years when he was the only elephant in the zoo - leaving humans as his only contact.
“Human speech basically has two important aspects, pitch and timbre,” says Dr Angela Stoeger of the University of Vienna.
“Intriguingly, the elephant Koshik is capable of matching both pitch and timbre patterns: he accurately imitates human formants as well as the voice pitch of his trainers.
“This is remarkable considering the huge size, the long vocal tract, and other anatomical differences between an elephant and a human.”
An elephant’s large larynx can produce very low-pitched sounds, but Koshik’s speech exactly copies the pitch and other characteristics of his trainers’ voices.
There have been earlier reports of vocal mimicry in elephants, with African elephants known to imitate the sound of truck engines, and a male Asian elephant living in a Kazakhstan zoo was said to produce utterances in both Russian and Kazakh, but that case was never scientifically investigated.
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