As part of the Speaker Series, the Linguistics Student Association presents Evolutionary Linguistics a lecture with PhD candidate LS James (McGill).
On using songbirds to investigate innate biases in vocal communication.
Across languages, particular word and sound sequences are substantially more prevalent than others, and many have postulated that this results from innate sensory, motor, or cognitive biases (e.g., theories of universal grammar). Songbirds, like humans, learn their vocal communication during development, and thus offer a powerful model system to investigate how such innate biases may arise. This talk will include a tour of the extensive research revealing parallels between songbird and human vocalizations, as well as recent experiments uncovering innate biases in zebra finch vocal sequencing.