Ok, so I was going to write an essay for my Origins of Language module on this but then got distracted by syntax (again) so I thought I’d put my thoughts in a blog post just so they don’t go to waste.
Diana monkeys, like vervet monkeys, use alarm calls to communicate the presence of a predator to other monkeys.
They produce (and respond to) different alarm calls corresponding to how close the predator is, whether the predator is above or below them and whether the predator is a leopard or an eagle. They respond instantly regardless of how imminent an attack is.
In this post I will explore some of the evidence relating to how sophisticated the Diana monkey’s understanding of the call’s meaning is and also the mental mechanisms relating to the call’s production.
Zuberbühler (2000a) discusses some types of species which have alarm calls but instead of each alarm call representing a different predator, each alarm call represents a different level (or types) of danger. The aim of the Zuberbühler paper then, was to set out if this was the case for Diana monkeys or if they really did have referential ‘labels’ for different predators.