Human language could have evolved from birdsong: linguists

Language

While the Bengalese finch, can loop back to parts of previous melodies, bees communicate visually, using precise waggles to indicate sources of foods to their peers; other primates can make a range of sounds, comprising warnings about predators and other messages.

Humans can communicate essential information, like bees or primates but like birds, we also have a melodic capacity and an ability to recombine parts of our uttered language.

"It's not a very long step to say that what got joined together was the ability to construct these complex patterns, like a song, but with words," Berwick says.

The study notes some of the "striking parallels" between language acquisition in birds and humans include the phase of life when each is best at picking up languages, and the part of the brain used for language.

"Human language is not just freeform, but it is rule-based," Miyagawa says. "If we are right, human language has a very heavy constraint on what it can and cannot do, based on its antecedents in nature."

The paper "The Emergence of Hierarchical Structure in Human Language," was co-written by Miyagawa, Berwick and Kazuo Okanoya was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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