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Sleep affects learning and development in humans and other animals, but the role of sleep in developmental learning has never been examined. Here we show the effects of night-sleep on song development in the zebra finch by recording and analysing the entire song ontogeny. During periods of rapid learning we observed a pronounced deterioration in song(More)
Culture is typically viewed as consisting of traits inherited epigenetically, through social learning. However, cultural diversity has species-typical constraints, presumably of genetic origin. A celebrated, if contentious, example is whether a universal grammar constrains syntactic diversity in human languages. Oscine songbirds exhibit song learning and(More)
Human language, as well as birdsong, relies on the ability to arrange vocal elements in new sequences. However, little is known about the ontogenetic origin of this capacity. Here we track the development of vocal combinatorial capacity in three species of vocal learners, combining an experimental approach in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) with an(More)
Song development provides an opportunity to study the mechanisms of vocal learning dynamically at molecular, cellular and systems levels, and across time scales ranging from minutes to months. To exploit these opportunities one needs to identify appropriate units, types and time scales of vocal change in nearly real time. The previous chapter by(More)
Languages tend not to exhibit unpredictable variation. We explore alignment/accommodation during interaction as a mechanism to explain this cross-linguistic tendency. Specifically, we test the hypothesis (derived from historical linguistics) that interactions between categorical and variable users are inherently asymmetric: while variable users (of e.g. a(More)
General rights Copyright for the publications made accessible via the Edinburgh Research Explorer is retained by the author(s) and / or other copyright owners and it is a condition of accessing these publications that users recognise and abide by the legal requirements associated with these rights. Take down policy The University of Edinburgh has made every(More)
Linguistic universals arise from the interaction between the processes of language learning and language use. A test case for the relationship between these factors is linguistic variation, which tends to be conditioned on linguistic or sociolinguistic criteria. How can we explain the scarcity of unpredictable variation in natural language, and to what(More)
At the onset of vocal development, both songbirds and humans produce variable vocal babbling with broadly distributed acoustic features. Over development, these vocalizations differentiate into the well-defined, categorical signals that characterize adult vocal behaviour. A broadly distributed signal is ideal for vocal exploration, that is, for matching(More)
Languages tend not to exhibit unpredictable variation, and learners receiving variable linguistic input tend to eliminate it, making the language more regular. We explore how this behavior is influenced by social cues, in particular when variability is distributed within and across teachers. We trained participants on an artificial language that contained(More)
In this article, I argue that a comparative approach focusing on the cognitive capacities and behavioral mechanisms that underlie vocal learning in songbirds and humans can provide valuable insights into the evolutionary origins of language. The experimental approaches I discuss use abnormal song and atypical linguistic input to study the processes of(More)