(EDINBURGH, Scotland) — Researchers have always known chimpanzees were smart, adaptable creatures, but it now appears they’re even picking up new accents.
After growing up in the Netherlands, nine chimpanzees who moved to the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland five years ago are now reportedly sporting Scottish accents, apparently learned from their new Scottish zoo-mates.
According to a new study published in Current Biology, this breakthrough research is the first indication that chimps can learn different words, or tones, for different objects — in short, be bilingual.
“An extraordinary feature of human language is our ability to reference external objects and events with socially learned symbols, or words,” said the head researcher on the study, Dr. Katie Slocombe. “These data represent the first evidence of non-human animals actively modifying and socially learning the structure of a meaningful referential vocalization.”
To be fair, the distinct tones are not entirely obvious to the untrained human ear but chimp experts say the primates previously used a “high-pitched” noise growing up in the Netherlands when they wanted an apple and now use more of a “low grunt” to ask for the fruit in Scotland.