Comparative communication and cognition

We are interested in the complexity underlying vocal communication and cognition in animals. By taking a broad comparative approach focusing on both primate, non-primate mammals and birds (meerkats, wolves, vervet monkeys, chimpanzees, pied babblers) we aim to unpack the similarities and differences between animal and human communication and ultimately what selective conditions might have been responsible for the evolution of the human language faculty.

Research themes:

  • Proximate mechanisms underlying animal vocal production. Are vocalisations just hardwired responses to environmental stimuli or do animals have a degree of “control” over their production?
  • Information content of animal vocalisations. What external and internal information is encoded within the acoustic structure of animal vocalisations, what acoustic parameters are responsible (source vs. filter) and is this meaningful to recipients?
  • Referential communication in animals. To what can animals “refer”?
  • Evolutionary origins of vocal sequences and syntax in humans