"There is no way this is just some sort of accidental thing, that the elephant was making normal elephant sounds and somehow got rewarded for doing it and then people started saying, 'Oh, he's a talking elephant,' " says [Tecumseh] Fitch. "That's what I think makes it really convincing that this is speech mimicry."
What's more, the researchers asked native Korean speakers to listen to the sounds made by Koshik and transcribe what they heard. While most listeners agreed on the vowel sounds, there was some disagreement on what consonants he was saying. "His consonants are kind of blurry in the same way that mine might be if I'd had a half a bottle of Jack Daniel's or something," says Fitch.
What most struck the researchers is that Koshik was apparently so driven to imitate sounds that he invented the method of putting his trunk in his mouth and moving it around. They believe that he may have done this to bond with his trainers, as he was deprived of elephant companionship during a critical period of his childhood and spent years with humans as his only social contact.
Read or listen to it all and do not miss the video.
Posted November 4, 2012 at 12:16 pm
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