Universiteit Leiden

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Proefschrift

The music of language: exploring grammar, prosody and rhythm perception in zebra finches and budgerigars

Promotor: C.J. ten Cate

Auteur
Michelle Spierings
Datum
17 november 2016
Links
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Language is a uniquely human trait. All animals have ways to communicate, but these systems do not bear the same complexity as human language. However, this does not mean that all aspects of human language are specifically human. By studying the language perception abilities of other species, we can discover which parts of language are shared. It are these parts that might have been at the roots of our language evolution. In this thesis I have studied language and music perception in two bird species, zebra finches and budgerigars. For example, zebra finches can perceive the prosodic (intonation) patterns of human language. The budgerigars can learn to discriminate between different abstract (grammar) patterns and generalize these patterns to new sounds. These and other results give us insight in the cognitive abilities that might have been at the very basis of the evolution of human language.