US Berkeley researchers used artificial intelligence to determine that some of the clicks used by whales to communicate are "on many levels analogous to human vowels and dipthongs," the sound of two vowels in a single syllable as in "loud."
"If our findings are correct, it means that the communication of sperm whales is much more complex and can carry more information than previously thought," writes linguist Gasper Begus.
Begus and his colleagues previously used deep learning to create a model "trained to imitate sperm whale codas and embed information into these vocalizations." The dataset for their current project came from recording thousands of whale codas— sequences of clicks—using underwater microphones.
"The researchers even identify two unique "coda vowels" that are "actively exchanged" in conversation between whales, which they term the a-vowel and i-vowel," reports Vice.
I hope progress continues before it's too late.