Lara Nellissen

Research Interests

Understanding the evolution of language remains one of the biggest scientific challenges. The core of human language lies in our unique ability to use syntax to form complex expressions. Little is known about how human syntax evolved, but forms of syntax have been found among primates. While syntax has been reported for chimpanzees and bonobos, relatively little is known about the use of syntax by our third closest relative: the gorilla.

The aim of my PhD project is to investigate vocal communication of western gorillas (gorilla gorilla) to better understand why and how primate communication and cognition evolved in human language and syntax. For this I will study the vocal behavior of wild western gorillas in the Dzanga-Ndokin National Park in Central African Republic under the supervision of Shelly Masi and in collaboration with the lab of Klaus Zuberbühler.


Institution:  Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris