Finches use their own form of grammar in their tweets

Jun 28, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report
Fawn Society Finches. Image: Wikipedia.

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a recent study published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers from the University of Kyoto in Japan have discovered that the tweets of Bengalese finches follow a set of grammatical patterns and rules.

Finches in the wild will react and call back when they hear unfamiliar songs that are usually from intruding finches. Dr. Kentaro Abe and Dai Watanabe used this reaction to test the finches.

They began by playing songs to the finches that were unfamiliar. They played the songs over a period of time until the birds stopped reacting and were used to the new . They then mixed the order of the syllables within the songs and replayed them to the finches. When one of the remixes, named SEQ2, was played almost 90 percent of the birds erupted in response, however the other remixes received no reaction. What the researchers determined was that the in a particular social community seem to have some sort of syllable order that must be present within their songs.

In another experiment, the researchers showed that the knowledge of this syllable order is not innate and must be learned. He tested birds that had been raised alone and they showed no response to SEQ2. However, after the isolated birds had spent two weeks with the other birds, they too then showed a reaction.

Another experiment showed that the birds were able to learn ‘new’ grammatical rules if the team played one of the remixes over and over again. Once these birds had learned the new rules, mixing the syllables up again found the birds reacting to a change in the syllable structure.

In a final experiment, Abe and his team chemically shut down an area of the finch brain known as the anterior nidopallium in some of the . This area of the brain is vital for the bird’s ability to understand the grammatical pattern in the . He suggests that using this information, and studying the counterpart section of the human brain, could shed new light on the origins of human grammar.

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More information: Songbirds possess the spontaneous ability to discriminate syntactic rules, Nature Neuroscience (2011) doi:10.1038/nn.2869

Abstract
Whether the computational systems in language perception involve specific abilities in humans is debated. The vocalizations of songbirds share many features with human speech, but whether songbirds possess a similar computational ability to process auditory information as humans is unknown. We analyzed their spontaneous discrimination of auditory stimuli and found that the Bengalese finch (Lonchura striata var. domestica) can use the syntactical information processing of syllables to discriminate songs). These finches were also able to acquire artificial grammatical rules from synthesized syllable strings and to discriminate novel auditory information according to them. We found that a specific brain region was involved in such discrimination and that this ability was acquired postnatally through the encounter with various conspecific songs. Our results indicate that passerine songbirds spontaneously acquire the ability to process hierarchical structures, an ability that was previously supposed to be specific to humans.

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User comments : 8

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epsi00
5 / 5 (2) Jun 28, 2011
We are almost there. 10 to 15 years down the road we will recognize that language is not specific to the human species after all.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2011
And think of all the wonderful things we will discover when we learn to listen and understand other life.

"The scientist does not study nature because it is useful, he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living."

Henri Poincaré
hush1
3 / 5 (2) Jun 28, 2011
The nature of sound sheds light on understanding. Our understanding about life we study.

"...the researchers showed that the knowledge of this syllable order is not innate and must be learned." - Deborah Braconnier
Yes.
The 'knowledge' of sound, (it's order and structure) is innate and intrinsic. You can not teach hearing. There is nothing 'learned'. Nature's evolution of life brings forth
'solutions' to sound that apparently bears an advantage over life forms without the ability to hear sound.

Hearing is no perquisite to any 'advantage' over other life.
Other life forms feel sound. How can we know if this is an 'advantage' or not?

There is little distinction between the mechanics of sounds and the mechanics of hearing. The origins of grammar come from the origins of language. The origins of language come from the origins of sound. And the properties of sound are innate and intrinsic, unlike language and grammar.
Telekinetic
2 / 5 (4) Jun 28, 2011
We are almost there. 10 to 15 years down the road we will recognize that language is not specific to the human species after all.

We are already there. Koko the signing gorilla, Dr. John Lilly's dolphins, a border collie that recognizes over 1,000 words, African grey parrots that use words correctly, and many others I'm sure. What we must learn to accept is that consciousness is not exclusive to humans nor the right to humane treatment.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Jun 29, 2011
There is little distinction between the mechanics of sounds and the mechanics of hearing. The origins of grammar come from the origins of language. The origins of language come from the origins of sound. And the properties of sound are innate and intrinsic, unlike language and grammar.
Yes. And the sound of your own babbling is music to your ears.

You are SO full of shit. I can sense that you really WANT to say something meaningful. Alas, all you post is drivel.
The 'knowledge' of sound, (it's order and structure) is innate and intrinsic. You can not teach hearing. There is nothing 'learned'. Nature's evolution of life brings forth
'solutions' to sound
-For instance, is sound some kind of evolutionary 'riddle' in search of a 'solution'? And this 'order' of sound - do you think you can actually describe this thing without using equally empty terms?

You think posturing with phrases which SOUND like a carl sagan monologue can replace your actually SAYING something?
hush1
5 / 5 (1) Jun 29, 2011
.1) Sound is independent of any "evolutionary 'riddle'"
If you want to regard wave mechanics as the 'evolution' a wave must perform to fulfill the definitions put forth by wave mechanics and acoustics for sound that is fine.

2.)"do you think you can actually describe this thing without using equally empty terms?"

Sound is energy, Otto. If you want to know what energy does, simply go to a piano. Stand next to it. Undampened the strings (soft pedal) without touching the keyboard. Now clap your hands. The clap is an impulse of energy composed of all wave lengths.
As soon as this impulse of energy (the clap energy) reaches the strings, the part of that impulse of energy having the same wavelength as a string will vibrate (resonance). All the strings will vibrate (from resonance with the impulse)

The is call Fourier Transformation. For sound. There is zero difference between the strings of piano and the stereo-cilia of human ears.

Stop embarrassing yourself with ad hominems towards me.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Jun 30, 2011
Stop embarrassing yourself with ad hominems towards me.
Who is embarrassing themselves?
There is little distinction between the mechanics of sounds and the mechanics of hearing.
???
The origins of grammar come from the origins of language.
???
The origins of language come from the origins of sound.
WTF???
And the properties of sound are innate and intrinsic, unlike language and grammar.
You write crap. This was only one paragraph out of an entire post full of CRAP.
The is call Fourier Transformation. For sound
Your name dropping does not add substance to your nonsense.

I'm performing a community service here.
hush1
5 / 5 (2) Jun 30, 2011
Who is embarrassing themselves?

The person asking.

Your name dropping does not add substance to your nonsense.


Fourier Transformations are "name dropping" to you because you do not see the relevance anywhere here.

I'm performing a community service here.

You performing a disservice to anyone in need of more than derogatory generalizations. You ask no specific questions.
For you, it is easier to label all you don't understand as crap, than to make an effort to understand. Like Einsteins' 16 field equations. To which you admit you do not understand and have resign to convincing yourself that you will never be able to understand them.

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