Language: Startling starlings

  title={Language: Startling starlings},
  author={G. Marcus},
  • G. Marcus
  • Published 2006
  • History, Medicine
  • Nature
Recursion, once thought to be the unique province of human language, now seems to be within the ken of a common songbird — perhaps providing insight into the origins of language.The language of birdsongNoam Chomsky's work on ‘generative grammar’ led to the concept of a set of rules that can generate a natural language with a hierarchical grammar, and the idea that this represents a uniquely human ability. In a series of experiments with European starlings, in which several types of ‘warble’ and… Expand
Language evolution and an emergent property
  • K. Okanoya
  • Medicine, Psychology
  • Current Opinion in Neurobiology
  • 2007
It is suggested that FLN is not an independent faculty, but an 'emergent' property, arising from interactions between several other non-syntactical subfaculties of FLB, including vocal learning ability. Expand
The redundancy of recursion and infinity for natural language
It is argued that the only motivation for recursion is the infinity in natural language and arithmetic competence, which is equally approachable by iteration and recursion, and that a property of natural language is physically uncountable finity and not discrete infinity. Expand
Rule learning by zebra finches in an artificial grammar learning task: which rule?
The results demonstrate only a limited degree of abstract rule learning but highlight the need for extensive and critical probe testing to examine the rules that animals (and humans) use to solve artificial grammar learning tasks and underline that rule learning strategies may differ between individuals. Expand
Simple rules can explain discrimination of putative recursive syntactic structures by a songbird species
Although this study casts doubts on whether the rules used by starlings and zebra finches really provide evidence for the ability to detect recursion as present in “context-free” syntax, it also provides evidence for abstract learning of vocal structure in a songbird. Expand
It is suggested that by treating the language faculty as a complex trait with predefined functional interfaces, it is possible to delineate the evolutionary forces that have led to the emergence of natural language. Expand
Semiotic systems with duality of patterning and the issue of cultural replicators
It is argued that semiotic systems with Duality of Pattering force us to reconsider either the analogy between replicators in the biological and the cultural domain, or what it is to be a replicator in linguistics. Expand
On the production and perception of syntactical regularities in zebra finches : experimenting with ABBA, ACDC and others
Natural zebra finch song contains heterogeneity in the relative distribution of element types across 13 populations worldwide, but compared between individuals it contains relatively littleExpand
On Idioms: Cornerstones for a Neurological Model of Language Processing
The examination of the cognitive and neural correlates of idiom comprehension is an excellent test ground for a neurological model of language processing. Idioms are hybrid linguistic elements: TheyExpand
Darwin´s legacy: a comparative approach to the evolution of human derived cognitive traits
There is a broad agreement that the most notorious traits that set our species apart from any other, those that define our humanity, include language as a means of communication and mentalExpand
Recursion and the competence/performance distinction in AGL tasks
It is demonstrated here that the current focus of the artificial grammar learning literature on recursion blurs the different levels, resulting in three main corollaries: the literature cannot tell us anything about the first level, the explanation for the role of recursion therein lies elsewhere, and much cannot in fact be known about the neural basis of recursions. Expand


The faculty of language: what's special about it?
The approach is sufficiently problematic that it cannot be used to support claims about evolution and related arguments that language is not an adaptation, namely that it is "perfect," non-redundant, unusable in any partial form, and badly designed for communication. Expand
Recursive syntactic pattern learning by songbirds
It is shown that European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) accurately recognize acoustic patterns defined by a recursive, self-embedding, context-free grammar, and this finding opens a new range of complex syntactic processing mechanisms to physiological investigation. Expand
The faculty of language: what is it, who has it, and how did it evolve?
We argue that an understanding of the faculty of language requires substantial interdisciplinary cooperation. We suggest how current developments in linguistics can be profitably wedded to work inExpand
Computational Constraints on Syntactic Processing in a Nonhuman Primate
Monkeys tested with the same methods, syllables, and sequence lengths were unable to master a grammar at this higher, “phrase structure grammar” level, but it is demonstrated that monkeys can spontaneously master such grammars. Expand
The eloquent ape: genes, brains and the evolution of language
It is argued that language should be viewed not as a wholesale innovation, but as a complex reconfiguration of ancestral systems that have been adapted in evolutionarily novel ways. Expand
The Birth of the Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates The Complexities of Human Thought
The first book to show precisely how genes build the wonders of the human brain, and why the Human Genome project could radically alter our view of the world. In The Birth of the Mind , award-winningExpand
The second inheritance system of chimpanzees and humans
The collaborative effort required to establish this picture parallels the one set up to sequence the chimpanzee genome, and has revealed a complex social inheritance system that complements the genetic picture the authors are now developing. Expand
Nature Rev. Genet
  • Nature Rev. Genet
  • 2006
Language and Mind (Harcourt, Brace & World
  • Language and Mind (Harcourt, Brace & World
  • 1968