These kinds of throw-away claims are a form of perennial nonsense. Nothing in the article suggests anything close to this being true. He looks at the shades of meaning of three sounds and yet asserts a similar sophistication to human speech.
It's a regular meme in animal articles that this group (monkeys here, other times dolphins or whales) have language skills that rival humans. It's a kind of warm fuzzy feel-good claim asserted regularly despite supporting evidence.
It's like gluing a bunch of toothpicks to steel girders, then saying you can build a bridge out of toothpicks.
Relevant farside comic: http://i.imgur.com/QSR2AfI.gif
They give a game-theoretic formalization of their theory but I'm not sure that the formalization adds much beyond the summary in the article.
Isn't assigning meaning to otherwise-arbitrary symbols/sounds a key aspect of language?
I guess it gets arbitrary at complex enough levels though.
I'd hazard a guess that hok and krak have some component of instinctual/physical nature to them. I personally think that certain sounds are related to physical experiences or expressions of emotions. Obvious ones are surprise of "Oh!" with an open mouth.
"Hmmm" whilst thinking or concentrating, frowning and closing your mouth.
I'm currently watching my son learn to speak and his verbalizing seems pretty closely tied to his emotions at the moment.
"Oishii" means delicious in Japanese and it seems something that makes sense to say whilst you are smiling at enjoying your food. The long "ii" vowel to rhyme with the "e" of "she" in English.
Honestly, I don't necessarily agree. For example in Japanese 'iie' sounds very similar to 'yes' or 'yeah' but it actually means the opposite, it means 'no', whereas 'hai' means 'yes'.
If we want to talk about individual phonemes caused by emotional reactions, there might be some truth behind what you're saying, however as soon a we enter the realm of "this word sounds soft so it's positive" and "this word sounds hard hence it's negative" everything collapses.
Yeah it falls apart at any level of complexity.
I just think there are certain cases in often used words and words that babies say or hear a lot at first. Like the mama/haha/papa/baba words. I'm talking about a 'language' in the same way the article talks about an animal language.
Like a few often used words linked to emotional states.
I don't mind if you disagree I just happen to believe oishii may be one of these words.
oishii thus means "is delicious" - you don't need a "da" after it
It'd be interesting to see how many sounds a monkey can make. If it's a very low number there'd probably be more universally used sounds but I'd imagine it's probably greater than most animals. I couldn't find a useful way to search for that. Unfortunately a lot of the results tended towards the "What sound does a monkey make" type of response and I'm not versed enough in linguistics or monkeys to query more efficiently.
You can see on the map  that the Ivory Coast and Tiwai Island are more than close enough for the monkey's languages to have split off at a much earlier stage and evolved differently. I'd assume this is more likely the case.
So I'm going to assume no, a monkey taken and raised elsewhere probably wouldn't instinctually jump into the trees upon hearing a "krak". But even the article states there are more experiments that need to be performed (although that particular experiment is a little insidious considering the intelligence of the animals you're kidnapping from (maybe if you saved one whose parents were incapacitated in some way)).
Of course, you could just go to the zoo and yell "krak!" at some of the monkeys and see what happens! Might get you some weird stares! ;-)
 - http://www.newstatesman.com/martha-gill/2013/11/what-one-wor...
What I mean is, for every word that exists, do those words trace back to a reality origin through a pattern of substitutions? Substitutions of symbol to reality are really just an associative relation. Substitutions between symbol to symbol are functionally operative the same way in which a substitution between reality and symbol works.
So then my question is, is language really anything more than remembering that the cherry came from the tree? Once the cherry is disconnected from the tree, we have two things - cherry and tree. But before we distinguish them as parts, we recognize them as a whole. When I walk away from the tree, taking with me, the cherry - what happens if I still use the tree in my mind to represent the concept of fruit? It's a choice function. Does it matter whether I remember these things using sounds, symbols, images, experiences, or feelings? Language is interpreted and expressed across and using all of these domains. A poem carries greater meaning than the words do individually, and that is because there is emotional association that maps to the selection of words. We don't really call 'emotion' language, nor do we call 'art/music/math' language, yet these things arguably can have a strong influence across how we 'know' what language represents.
Edit: What, you never saw "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"?