Grammar Is for the Birds
I was fascinated this week to learn that some researchers now believe birds use grammar! Discovery News wrote about the study this week, and I found it when a friend shared this link: http://news.discovery.com/animals/finches-songs-grammar-110627.html#mkcpgn=rssnws1.
The article is based on research published in Nature Neuroscience. It seems some Japanese researchers recorded the song calls of Bengalese finches and then played them back for other finches, who would respond as if they were hearing another bird. But when the researchers shuffled the sequence of the calls, other birds offered no response at all.
The scientists surmise that mixing up the sequence too much was equivalent to my calling out to you: “Movie go hey to you want the do to?” The sentence would be so out of order that you just might not respond at all.
Of course, this research makes me curious about lots of things, such as: Do Bengalese finches tweet in a different sequence than other species of finches? Would they have to learn a whole new tweet sequence if they wanted to hang out with the finches in my California backyard? Do baby birds have to learn to diagram sentences before they can fly?
Grammar: it’s not just for humans any more.