Pet birds can distinguish between languages
Pet birds can not only imitate sounds, they can distinguish between languages, potentially offering new clues on how the brain recognises speech, Japanese researchers say.Updated: Feb 07, 2006 12:42 IST
Pet birds can not only imitate sounds, they can distinguish between languages, potentially offering new clues on how the brain recognises speech, Japanese researchers say.
It has already been confirmed that monkeys, mice and other mammals can recognise different languages but this is the first time that birds have been found to possess the ability, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported.
A research team exposed Java Sparrows to English and Japanese translations recorded by exchange students of two well-known Japanese novels, ‘The Tale of Genji’ and Natsume Soseki’s ‘I Am a Cat’. A bird sitting on a perch first listened to the English version and was only allowed to eat afterward.
Then the researchers played English and Chinese recordings randomly and only allowed the bird to eat after hopping onto the perch with the English. The birds correctly identified the English recording 75 per cent of the time. The same results were achieved with another two birds that were permitted to eat only when Chinese was played.
“Humans are able to distinguish between languages, even ones they don’t know, from the intonation and pronunciation, and it seems that paddy birds have the same ability,” said Keio University experimental psychology professor Shigeru Watanabe, who led the research.
“If we study common traits in brain structure, this may shed light on the mechanisms of speech recognition,” Watanabe was quoted as saying by the Mainichi Shimbun.
First Published: Feb 07, 2006 12:42 IST