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From bird calls to human language: exploring the evolutionary drivers of compositional syntax
Jagiellonian Univ, Inst Environm Sci, Gronostajowa 7, PL-30387 Krakow, Poland.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal ecology.
Kyoto Univ, Ctr Ecol Res, 2-509-3 Hirano, Otsu, Shiga 5202113, Japan;Grad Univ Adv Studies, SOKENDAI, Dept Evolutionary Studies Biosyst, Hayama, Kanagawa 2400193, Japan.
2018 (English)In: CURRENT OPINION IN BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES, ISSN 2352-1546, Vol. 21, p. 6-12Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Compositional syntax, where lexical items are combined into larger units, has been assumed to be unique to human language. Recent experiments, however, showed that Japanese tits combine alert and recruitment calls into alert-recruitment sequences when attracting conspecifics to join in mobbing a predator. We speculate that such call combinations are favoured when: Firstly, callers and receivers have shared interests in exchanging information; secondly, species produce different types of calls in different situations, leading to distinct behavioural responses in receivers; and finally, complex situations exist in which receivers benefit by combining two or more behaviours. These preconditions were also present in human ancestors. Thus, future work on bird calls may provide insights into the evolution of compositional syntax in human language.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2018. Vol. 21, p. 6-12
National Category
Zoology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-366316DOI: 10.1016/j.cobeha.2017.11.002ISI: 000440543600003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-366316DiVA, id: diva2:1264369
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 665778Available from: 2018-11-20 Created: 2018-11-20 Last updated: 2018-11-20Bibliographically approved

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Wheatcroft, David

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