I'm looking for concrete answer for my 5 year old who keeps asking me this question. He asked after watching the TV show Evolve (episode on communication). He knows humans and primates shared a common ancestor so I guess it's natural to wonder why other primates don't talk like we do. He has supposed that they don't talk because they are "just animals". I explained that we humans really aren't much different than animals so that isn't a good reason. I've already explained that they do communicate, just not in the way we do. I think I confused him because he tells me that I didn't answer his question.

What would be a scientifically accurate way to answer this question? Being 5 he has a very black and white view of the world, to him you either talk or you don't. He's not having any of this 'non-verbal' communication stuff.

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There's a language gene. I think the gene is called FoxP2 or something. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FOXP2

As far as I know, chimps have a genetic coding very similar to the retarded version of FOXP2, making them incapable of speech. See KE family
When it does come to the brain, Chimps cannot process subject, verb, object. I believe the only noun they can understand is subject. Hopefully somebody who is more familiar with this can clarify the noun problem here.
Animals can communicate to each other but they don't use the complicated syntax that we use.
Chimps communicate very well non verbally,but have some verbal cues they give to each other as well.
Prarie dogs have" words" for various predators as do certain monkeys,even chickadees.
In fact,many animals get their cues as to danger and where that danger might be by cuing into birds danger calls.
It should be pointed out that some chimpanzees have learned sign language. A chimp named Washoe learned over 250 signs. And, of course, there was the famous example of Koko, the gorilla, who learned to use over 1000 different signs and actually learned to express emotions, such as happy or sad. Maybe you could buy the book "Koko's Kitten" (or get it from the library). Some of these primates that were taught sign language even taught their offspring or mate to sign.

Also, one might look at the Khoisan languages (also known as the "click" languages) spoken in parts of Africa. This points out that not all humans communicate in the same manner.
Thanks for the book recommendation. I will look for it in the library.
Thanks for all the great answers. We talked about how animals communicate in other ways. I think he simply wanted to know why they don't have a voice just like us. At any rate, in his 5yo way, he has long moved on from the chimp question and is now hypothesizing that the dinosaurs died out because they got too big and couldn't find enough food.
I think it boils down to a lack of evolutionary pressure, there is no need for them to talk, speach really evolved in humans because of the need to cooperate in group activities such as hunting, or did speach evolve because we cooperated in hunting? either way they get along fine without it.
For a good explanation on this, read the book Genome by Matt Ridley ( I think that is his name). There are several reasons why chimps don't talk. Plate tectonics for one, chimps are only relatives and not humans, humans have something in the back of the throat that allows us to speak (along with cavemen, but not apes).



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