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Comparative analyses of speech and language converge on birds

  • Gabriël J. L. Beckers (a1), Robert C. Berwick (a2) and Johan J. Bolhuis (a1)

Abstract

Unlike nonhuman primates, thousands of bird species have articulatory capabilities that equal or surpass those of humans, and they develop their vocalizations through vocal imitation in a way that is very similar to how human infants learn to speak. An understanding of how speech mechanisms have evolved is therefore unlikely to yield key insights into how the human brain is special.

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Abe, K. & Watanabe, D. (2011) Songbirds possess the spontaneous ability to discriminate syntactic rules. Nature Neuroscience 14:1067–74.
Beckers, G. J. L. (2013) Peripheral mechanisms of vocalization in birds: A comparison with human speech. In: Birdsong, speech, and language. Exploring the evolution of mind and brain, ed. Bolhuis, J. J. & Everaert, M., pp. 399422. MIT Press.
Beckers, G. J. L., Bolhuis, J. J., Okanoya, K. & Berwick, R. C. (2012) Birdsong neurolinguistics: Songbird context-free grammar claim is premature. NeuroReport 23:139–45.
Beckers, G. J. L., Nelson, B. S. & Suthers, R. A. (2004) Vocal tract filtering by lingual articulation in a parrot. Current Biology 14:1592–97.
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Berwick, R. C., Okanoya, K., Beckers, G. J. L. & Bolhuis, J. J. (2011) Songs to syntax: The linguistics of birdsong. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15(3):113–21.
Bolhuis, J. J. & Everaert, M., eds. (2013) Birdsong, speech and language. Exploring the evolution of mind and brain. MIT Press.
Bolhuis, J. J., Okanoya, K. & Skarff, C. (2010) Twitter evolution: Converging mechanisms in birdsong and human speech. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11(11):747–59.
Jarvis, E. D. (2004b) Learned birdsong and the neurobiology of human language. In: Behavioral neurobiology of birdsong, ed. Zeigler, H. P., Marler, P., pp. 749–77. (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 1016). New York Academy of Sciences.

Comparative analyses of speech and language converge on birds

  • Gabriël J. L. Beckers (a1), Robert C. Berwick (a2) and Johan J. Bolhuis (a1)

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