Science News

Australian Babblers Use Human Language’s Key Element According to Study

Australian Babblers Use Human Language’s Key Element According to Study
dnadmin

University of Zurich PhD student, Dr. Sabrina Engesser has recently published a new study which revealed that an Australian bird, the chestnut-crowned babbler (pied babbler) uses a key element in human language. By stringing a combination of sounds to form new meanings, the pied babbler is communicating through a language that is similar to how humans are able to form substantive words.

The bird, which is only found in the arid zone of Australia creates many sounds, and by rearranging the sounds into different combinations for its calls, the pied babbler was able to communicate. The way the pied babbler does it is different from creating several sounds to form a complex song that has no particular meaning like other song birds do.

According to Dr. Engesser, the pied babbler does not sing but rather uses its extended sound repertoire to produce individual sounds that are acoustically different from each other.

UK’s University of Exeter (UK) professor, Andy Russell has been studying the pied babblers for 11 years. He is the co-author of the study. He said that their findings led them to believe that the birds choose to rearrange the sounds to create a new meaning since it is easier to use the sounds that are already existing instead of creating new ones. They made a distinction between sound A and sound B, which the pied babbler reused in dissimilar arrangements when particular behaviors were performed. A flight call when the birds were flying was a combination of A and B. When the birds are feeding their young, the feeding prompt call was BAB.

They recorded these sounds and when they played it back to the birds, they showed that they were capable of distinguishing between the different types of calls. When they heard the feeding prompt call, the birds looked at the nests. They look out for birds coming in when the flight call was heard.

They intermixed the sounds, using sounds from the feeding prompt call to create a flight call and vice-versa and the birds were still able to make the distinction, which led the researchers to conclude that the sounds were indeed rearrangements.

First time

According to the researchers, this is the first time that they encountered a species other than man that was able to create new meanings by rearranging what seemed to be elements that are meaningless on their own. Dr. Simon Townsend, the study’s senior author, who is also from the University of Zurich said that structurally, the two sounds made by the pied babbler were similar, however these sounds were produced in entirely dissimilar behavioral contexts yet the birds that were listening were able to notice the difference.

The phoneme structuring that the pied babblers made might be a simple one, but what excites the scientists is that this could help them to understand how the human’s capability to produce new meanings evolved.

Image Copyright : By Chris Tzaros / Wikimedia Commons

Comment Below
Science News

More in Science News

Eclipse

The Total Solar Eclipse and Its Aftermath

Brian OasterAugust 22, 2017
Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism: Astro-Time Computer Remembered

Denise RecaldeMay 17, 2017
faucet

A Solar Purification System for Contaminated Water

Brian OasterMay 4, 2017
mars-2051748_1280

Hawking Says Only 100 Years to Leave Earth for Another Planet

Denise RecaldeMay 3, 2017
cave-2196631_1280

No Bones? Ancient Human DNA Collected From Dirt

Denise RecaldeApril 27, 2017
mastomys-491576_1280

Mice Have Been Living Off Humans for Some 15,000 Years

Denise RecaldeMarch 28, 2017
dna-1903318_1280

Scientists Experiment With Storing Computer Data In DNA

Denise RecaldeMarch 2, 2017
dish

Scientists Pinpoint Galaxy That Emitted Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts

Denise RecaldeJanuary 4, 2017
dna-163466_1280

UK Approves 3-Parent IVF Treatment

Denise RecaldeDecember 15, 2016