Communication Modalities of the North American Wood Ape (or in simpler terms, Can Bigfoot Talk?)
Researchers have long debated the very existence of the North American Wood Ape, also known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch. Human characteristics are attributed to the legendary creature. As part of this anthropomorphizing, these creatures are often given the ability communicate verbally. Many fiction writers have created artificial languages, and even the undead zombie can at least mutter the word, “Brains!”
While many types of primates have the ability for rudimentary verbalizations, only modern humans (homo sapien) are known to have the capacity – both physically and mentally – to create, use and share complex languages. That does not mean, however, that other primates do not have means of communicating with one another.
The hypothesis of this author is that 1) the North American Wood Ape (NAWA) does, most likely, exist and 2) it utilizes a variety of modalities to communicate including not only through rudimentary vocalizations, but through physical and possibly telepathic means.
In The Veritas Codex, my protagonist, Dr. Lauren Grayson encounters an unidentified species of primate. I did copious amounts of research about how Bigfoot might communicate. In human anatomy, we have multiple physiological configurations that make us unique and give us the ability to formulate speech. It begins with how we process air through vocal chords, and manipulate it across the palate, as well as with tongue and teeth. It also requires a configuration in our brains that allows us to process those sounds and signals and to infer their meaning. Not only are our brains designed to process one language, but they can process many languages. Neurobiologists have found the brains of polyglots vary significantly than those of people who speak only one language.
So what about the NAWA? Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough data, but we can extrapolate based on physio-biology of known primates. If you look at the way modern apes communicate, we see a number of modalities being used. They do use some vocalizations – vocalizations that are limited only by their physiology. Their vocal cords, hard and soft palate, tongue, and teeth are not configured like ours. So how do they make up for it?
We use social cues to communicate, even when words fail us. I have a friend who, I would say, is very Italian, who can convey a breadth of meaning just in what she does with her hands. Primates too, have been observed to utilize gestures and body language to add to their limited vocalizations.
A third means of communication was complete fiction in The Veritas Codex, but I based it on science instead of science fiction. In my book, the Bigfoot our team encounters communicates telepathically with our heroine. How is that science? If you look at the size of the brain in modern apes, particularly in gorillas, their skulls are much larger than ours, meaning they have more room for a bigger brain – a brain that might possibly exceed the capabilities of our own. Why not telepathy?
Gorillas are brilliant, and if you gaze into their eyes, you can see an intelligence there – a sentience. As a safety professional, I’ve been called to help solve a fall protection issue at a zoo in the gorilla enclosure. Workers were at risk of serious injury or death from falls, while cleaning the enclosure. The solution was to install a permanent anchor in the ceiling and an engineer did so. Within a few days, the gorillas had figured out how to remove it, and had given it back to their handlers. They knew it was different, decided it didn’t belong and had the strength to remove it, and the sense to give it back to the humans.
My creation of a telepathic character wasn’t an arbitrary one. That kind of intelligence informed my opinion of how the Bigfoot brain might work. Is it possible? Who knows? Maybe someday, we’ll find out.