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Department of Evolutionary Anthropology


Callitrichids are well known for their communicative complexity: they have large vocal repertoires, some intentional control over their vocalizations, immatures go through a babbling phase, and they show some vocal learning: we find that different populations can have different vocal «dialects» that are socially learned. Marmosets are thus a popular model species to understand language evolution.

An intriguing possibility is that that this communicative flexibility could evolve because their readiness to share food facilitated the readiness to also share information.

Here are some selected references from this line of work

  • Zürcher, Y., Willems, E. P., & Burkart, J. M. (2019). Are dialects socially learned in marmoset monkeys? Evidence from translocation experiments. PloS one, 14(10).
  • Arbib, M. A., Aboitiz, F., Burkart, J., Corballis, M., Coudé,G., Hecht, E., Liebal, K., Myowa-Yamakoshi, M., Pustejovsky, J., Putt, S., Rossano, F., Russon, A. E., Schoenemann, P. T., Seifert, U., Semendeferi, K., Sinha, C., Stout, D., Volterra, V., Wacewicz, S. & Wilson, B. (2018). The comparative neuroprimatology 2018 (CNP-2018) road map for research on how the brain got language. Interaction Studies, 19, 371-388.
  • Burkart, J. M., Guerreiro Martins, E., Miss, F., & Zürcher, Y. (2018). From sharing food to sharing information: cooperative breeding and the roots of language. Interaction Studies, 19, 136-150.
  • Ruch, H., Zürcher, Y. & Burkart, J. M. (2018). The function of vocal accommodation in humans and other primates. Biological Reviews, 93, 996-1013.
  • Zuercher, Y. & Burkart, J. M. (2017) Population differences in vocalizations in marmoset monkeys: Evidence for vocal production learning? International Journal of Primatology. doi:10.1007/s10764-017-9979-4
  • Townsend, S. W., Koski, S. E., Byrne R. W., Slocombe, K. E., Bickel, B., Böckle, M., Braga Concalves, I., Burkart, J. M., Flower, T., Gaunet, F., Glock, H. J., Gruber, T., Jansen D. A. W. A. M., Liebal, K., Linke, A., Miklosi, A., Moore, R., van Schaik, C. P., Stoll, S., Vail, A., Waller, B., Wild, M., Zuberbühler, K. & Manser, M. B. (2016). Exorcising Grice’s ghost: an empirical approach to studying intentional communication in animals. Biological Reviews. doi: 10.1111/brv.12289.