Monkeys Know Bad Grammar When They Hear It


It’s not like they’re gonna be writing for The New Yorker anytime soon, but a team of scientists just published a study in the journal Biology Letters saying that monkeys can “recognize bad grammar.

Researchers spent a day familiarizing a group of cotton-top tamarins with a series of two-syllable words that followed a certain pattern. The next day, they started playing recordings of new words, some that followed the same pattern and others that followed a different one. The monkeys “looked to the speaker” longer when the pattern was different.

Said lead author Dr. Ansgar Endress. ”If they got used to, or bored by, the pattern, then they might be more interested in items that violate (it) – because they are something new – than in items that are consistent with the pattern.” (via Book Bench)

Seth Fischer's writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best Sex Writing 2013, Buzzfeed, PankGuernica, Lunch Ticket, Gertrude, and elsewhere. His Rumpus piece "Notes from a Unicorn" was listed as a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2013. He teaches and tutors at Antioch University Los Angeles and Writing Workshops Los Angeles, and he was a Jentel Arts Residency Program Fellow. Find more writing of his writing at, or reach him @sethfischer. More from this author →