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Language structure: variation and change

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‘talking birds’

In two recently published paper (Engesser et al. 2016 in PNAS and Suzuki et al. 2016 in Nat Comm) biologists have claimed that songbirds are able to associate meaning with sound, comparable to what humans do. More specifically, they argue that songbirds have ‘compositional syntax’. This has triggered debate in the journal PLoS Biology:

Bolhuis, J.J., Beckers, G.J.L., Huijbregts, M.A.C., Berwick, Robert C. & Everaert, M.B.H. (04-06-2018). Meaningful syntactic structure in songbird vocalizations?.PLoS Biology, 16 (6).

Bolhuis, J.J., Beckers, G.J.L., Huijbregts, M.A.C., Berwick, Robert & Everaert, M.B.H. (24-09-2018). The slings and arrows of comparative linguisticsPLoS Biology, 16 (9).

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