'Uniquely human' component of language found in gregarious birds

Although linguists have argued that certain patterns of language organization are the exclusive province of humans -- perhaps the only uniquely human component of language -- researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of California San Diego have discovered the same capacity to recognize such patterns and distinguish between them in Sturnus vulgaris, the common European starling.

In the April 27, 2006, issue of Nature, the researchers show that these starlings long known as virtuoso songbirds and expert mimics can be trained to reliably discriminate between two different patterns of organizing the sounds they use to communicate.

"Our research is a refutation of the canonical position that what makes human language unique is a singular ability to comprehend these kinds of patterns," said Timothy Gentner, assistant professor of psychology at UCSD and lead author of the study. "If birds can learn these patterning rules, then their use does not explain the uniqueness of human language."

The researchers focused on recursion, or center-embedding, a characteristic, found in all human languages. Recursion is one way of creating of new and grammatically correct meanings by inserting words and clauses within sentences -- theoretically, without limit. So, for example, "The bird sang," can become "The bird the cat chased sang."

Following the lead of language theorist Noam Chomsky, linguists have held that this recursive center-embedding is a universal feature of human language and, moreover, that the ability to process it forms a unique computational ability important for human language.

"Linguists have developed a mathematically rigorous set of definitions, a hierarchy of syntactical complexity, that governs the process of how humans create and understand utterances," said Daniel Margoliash, professor of anatomy and organismal biology at the University of Chicago and co-author of the study. "These rules govern ho

Contact: John Easton
University of Chicago Medical Center

Page: 1 2 3 4 5

Related biology news :

1. Cancer scientists create human leukemia process to map how disease begins, progresses
2. New evidence of human culture among primates
3. Marijuana component opens the door for virus that causes Kaposis sarcoma
4. Research shows NPD1 protects a key component of vision
5. Light-activated therapy targets DNA components
6. UN, industry, others partner to create world standards for e-scrap recycling, harvesting components
7. Researchers in Montral and the US create model of key immune-system component
8. Scientists discover two-component lantibiotic with therapeutic potential
9. The power behind insect flight: Researchers reveal key kinetic component
10. African parasite makes component of fat differently from all other organisms
11. Insulin pathway component explains insulin resistance, age-associated metabolic syndrome

Post Your Comments:

(Date:5/16/2017)...   Bridge Patient Portal , an enterprise ... EMR Systems , an electronic medical record solutions ... established a partnership to build an interface between ... Centricity™ products, including Centricity Practice Solution (CPS), Centricity ... new integrations will allow healthcare delivery networks using ...
(Date:4/18/2017)... , April 18, 2017  Socionext Inc., a global expert ... a media edge server, the M820, which features the company,s hybrid ... software provided by Tera Probe, Inc., will be showcased during the ... the NAB show at the Las Vegas ... ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... Fla. , April 11, 2017 ... and secure authentication solutions, today announced that it ... Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to develop ... Thor program. "Innovation has been a ... IARPA,s Thor program will allow us to innovate ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... BALTIMORE, Md. (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 ... ... for digital pathology, announced today it will be hosting a Webinar titled, “Pathology ... of  Advanced Pathology Associates , on digital pathology adoption best practices and how ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... A new study published in ... and fresh in vitro fertilization (IVF) transfer cycles. The multi-center matched ... , After comparing the results from the fresh and frozen transfer cohorts, the ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... , ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... Center’s FirstHand program has won a US2020 STEM Mentoring Award. Representatives of the ... for Excellence in Volunteer Experience from US2020. , US2020’s mission is to change ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... USDM Life Sciences , ... life sciences and healthcare industries, announces a presentation by Subbu Viswanathan and Jennifer ... “Automating GxP Validation for Agile Cloud Platforms,” will present a revolutionary approach to ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
Cached News: