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4.1: Nonverbal Communication Among Primates

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    Nonverbal Communication is a type of communication that occurs without the use of words and is continuous. This includes the act of communicating with one another via body language or other symbolism to convey meanings. It can be communicated through gestures, touch, body language, posture, facial expression, and eye contact. Non-verbal communication is different from person to person and especially from one culture to another. For example, if you are a Foreigner and you are traveling to Japan but you don’t speak Japanese, you don’t have a translator either or a dictionary and you can only use non-verbal communication to communicate with people, you go to a restaurant and order food by pointing at something. Similarly, you pay money and leave, the people bow to you when you are leaving the place a satisfied customer. Like humans, most other primates engage in nonverbal communication to relay messages, emotions, warnings, and ideas to each other. Primates, by nature, are a very social species and tend to live together in communities. Primates have developed a more complex way of communicating than most other animals. For example, a study of rhesus monkeys showed that a community had a distinct hierarchy among them and it was clear which monkeys outranked others. People have compared primates and their communication abilities to humans as more studies are conducted.[1]

    Call Systems

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Non-human primates like these have between fifteen and forty different calls in their call system depending on the species.

    A call system is a type of limited vocal communication system used by apes, birds and some other animals, which use call and song systems. Humans possess call systems that include:

    • Laughing
    • Crying
    • Groaning
    • Frightened Screaming
    • Sighing

    While humans possess a handful call systems, non-human primates have a system ranging from 15-40 calls, depending on the species. Non-human primates use these call systems when they are in the presence of food or danger, when they desire company, or when the animal desires to mark its location to signal pain, sexual interest, or the need for maternal care. The call system of non-human primates is “closed” because it lacks the ability to discuss absent or nonexistent objects as well as past or future events, which is called displacement. Closed call systems also have the absence of any link between sound and meaning in language, which is called arbitrariness. These five calls, paired with gestures and changes in rhythm, volume, and tonality (something which linguists call speech prosody) appear to have co-evolved with the development of symbolic language. This may be the reason they amalgamate (meaning to combine or unite to form one organization or structure) so well. These call systems are controlled by different parts of the ape brain.[2]

    This page titled 4.1: Nonverbal Communication Among Primates is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Wikibooks - Cultural Anthropology (Wikibooks) .

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