Birds form a language such as HUMANS: beings string our nonsense sounds together to make meaningful combinations, study finds
- Experts in the UK, Switzerland and Australia have studied chestnut-crowned babblers
- They discovered for the first time that individual sounds had no meaning in themselves
- But they combined the birds to create language, such as vowels and consonants
Birds can shape their language in the same way as humans by stringing together meaningless sounds, a study suggests.
When they are made by themselves, vowel and consonant sounds do not provide much information.
But connected to each other, the sounds can be used to create advanced words and talk in groups about an almost unlimited range of topics.
And birds might communicate in a similar way, scientists say, because they have been observed and our nonsense changes into meaningful sentences.
This is the first time animals have been heard to combine different and co-dependent calls to develop a language, the team said.
Scientists from universities in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Australia have studied the call of chestnut bread chatter (photo) and discovered that all their calls could be subdivided into combinations of two separate and intentional sounds
Researchers from universities in Zurich, Exeter, Warwick and Macquarie and New South Wales in Australia have studied the call of the chestnut-crowned chatter.
They discovered that all calls could be split into two separate parts that were arranged in different ways to convey different things.
In addition to earlier research that noted that the babblers used two tones – then designated A and B – to communicate, the findings confirmed how the animals heard them.
Dr. Sabrina Engesser, from the University of Zurich, said: & # 39; Through systematic comparisons, we tested which of the elements babblers experienced as equal or as different sounds.
& # 39; By doing this, we were able to confirm that the calls could be split into two perceptually different sounds that are shared across the calls in different arrangements.
& # 39; In addition, none of the elements bore the meaning of the calls, confirming that the elements are meaningless. & # 39;
A co-author of the study, Professor Andy Russell of Exeter, said what they found reminded of the way people use sounds to form meaningful words & # 39 ;.
In the earlier study, for example, scientists discovered that the birds made the & # 39; AB & # 39; call while flying and then & # 39; BAB & # 39; when feeding chicks in the nest.
But when the team played the individual A and B sounds for the birds, they showed no signs that they meant anything.
This provides an insight, however simple, into the way in which human language has been developed by combining separate but useless sounds – called a combinatorial sound system.
Research into chestnut-crowned chat (photo) is the first of its kind to observe animals with meaningless sounds that are joined together to create a language, the researchers said
If it's possible in these birds, the scientists suggest, it might be more scattered in the animal kingdom.
The ability to communicate in this way is not a sign of the refinement of words, the scientists add as a reservation.
Professor Simon Townsend of Zurich added: & # 39; This is the first time that the meaning-generating building blocks of a non-human communication system have been experimentally identified.
& # 39; Although the building blocks in the chat system can be of a very simple kind, it can still help us to understand how combinatoriality initially developed in humans. & # 39;
The research was published in the Proceedings journal of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
BIRDS & # 39; CAN USE PHRASES & # 39; TO COMMUNICATE WITH ANOTHER
Previous research has shown that birds not only use different calls to communicate different messages, but some can also combine these calls in a specific way to create & # 39; sentences & # 39; to convey more complex information.
Japanese great tits, also known as Parus minor, were found to combine calls to produce messages that have different meanings.
Scientists said in a paper in 2016 that this was the first example of the use of syntax by non-human animals.
Great tits are known to have a varied vocal repertoire, with some types producing more than 40 different songs and calls.
A team of researchers from Japan, Germany and Sweden, published in research in Nature Communications, discovered that the bird not only uses different calls, but also some rules that give them structure.
One of the bird's threat responses is a call from Dr. Toshitaka Suzuki, who led the research at Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Kanagawa, Japan, with the label & # 39; ABC & # 39; and that & # 39; scan for danger & # 39; meant.
The tits used these calls to warn others of a perched predator such as a falcon.
Another call, labeled & # 39; D & # 39 ;, meant & # 39; come here & # 39; and was used to discover a new food source or to encourage a partner in the nest.
The tits demonstrated their command of communication by using these calls alone or in combination to communicate complex information.
When the calls are played together in the natural order (ABC-D), other birds responded by approaching while scanning for danger.
But when the researchers artificially reversed the sequence in audio playback experiments with D-ABC, the birds did not respond.
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