What do monkey calls mean?

Philippe Schlenker, Emmanuel Chemla, Klaus Zuberbühler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


A field of primate linguistics is gradually emerging. It combines general questions and tools from theoretical linguistics with rich data gathered in experimental primatology. Analyses of several monkey systems have uncovered very simple morphological and syntactic rules, and they have led to the development of a primate semantics which asks new questions about the division of semantic labor between the literal meaning of monkey calls, additional mechanisms of pragmatic enrichment, and the environmental context. We show that comparative studies across species may validate this program, and may in some cases help reconstruct the evolution of monkey communication over millions of years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)894-904
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number12
Early online date9 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Primate semantics
  • Primate call evolution
  • Primate implicatures
  • Primate linguistics
  • Evolution of meaning
  • Evolution of communication


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