Home > Events > BBI Workshop: Animal Cognition, Communication, and Human Language
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BBI Workshop: Animal Cognition, Communication, and Human Language

Time: 
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 - 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Location: 
1103 Bioscience Research Building and Language Science Center (2130 HJP)

 

Mini workshop follow up to the BBI conference "New Perspectives on Animal Models of Language and Cognition". 

1103 Bioscience Research Building

12 PM: Carel ten Cate (Professor of Animal Behavior, Institute of Biology, Leiden University)

The linguistic abilities of birds – on speech perception and grammar rule learning

Abstract: Language is a unique feature of modern humans. One window to address its evolutionary origin is by comparative research, examining whether certain features that make up the language faculty are present in other animal species. Several bird species have relatively complex, well-structured, learned vocalizations, and for that reason birdsong is seen as one of the closest animal analogues for language. I am interested in whether this superficial similarity extends to a similarity in cognitive skills of birds, in particular with respect to the processing of phonetic or syntactic features. In both areas there is debate on whether specific abilities are uniquely human, and so evolved in consort with language, or whether they originate from more general cognitive abilities that might also be present in other animal species, either by common descent or by independent evolution. We use zebra finches and budgerigars as model species to examine such questions. I will discuss some of our studies, concentrating on two topics. The first one concerns the human ability to recognize words regardless of individual variation across speakers, while at the same time being able to distinguish among speakers. The second topic is the presence and scope of some "grammatical" rule-learning abilities in birds.

1 PM: Pizza lunch and discussion

1:30 PM: Tecumseh Fitch (University of Vienna), Mimicry and evolution of language

Language Science Center (2130 H.J. Patterson)

2:45 PM: Xiaoqin Wang (Johns Hopkins), Vocal plasticity in adult marmosets

3:30 PM: Josef Rauschecker (Georgetown), Non-verbal auditory-motor behavior in rhesus monkeys

4:15 PM: Lori Holt (Carnegie Mellon), Incidental learning - Between passive exposure and instruction: An active assist for statistical learning

5 PM: Coffee and cookies

5:15-6 PM: General discussion. Discussants include Bill Idsardi (LING), Elissa Newport (Georgetown), Greg Hickok (UC Irvine)

Yale Cohen (UPenn), Lori Holt (Carnegie Mellon)