Linguistic birds : exploring cognitive abilities in zebra finches by using artificial grammars

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Linguistic birds : exploring cognitive abilities in zebra finches by using artificial grammars

Title: Linguistic birds : exploring cognitive abilities in zebra finches by using artificial grammars
Author: Chen, Jiani
Publisher: Department of Behavioural Biology, Insitute of Biology (IBL), Faculty of Science, Leiden University
Issue Date: 2014-10-16
Keywords: Sequential learning
Affixation
Rule generalization
Non-adjacent dependency
Zebra finch
Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to shed light on whether some capacities that are considered linked to, or characteristic for, language are shared between humans and nonhuman animals, which can help to understand the basic cognitive abilities from which the evolution of human language may have arisen. The thesis starts with comparing human language with other communication systems. Then Chapter 2 addressed the question: what mechanisms are involved in learning a sequence of vocal items in zebra finches. Chapter 3 addressed whether zebra finches are able to discriminate between, and generalize, affixation patterns. Chapter 4 dealt with a controversial topic that is recently getting a lot of attention: whether animals show the ability to learn ‘algebraic’ rules that are relevant to syntax learning in humans. Chapter 5 examined the ability of zebra finch to learn nonadjacent dependency that is important for learning the hierarchical structure of languages. Altogether, this thesis provides positive evidence for similarities between humans and songbirds in using transitional information, generalizing surface transformations of human affixation patterns and detecting nonadjacent dependencies.
Description: Promotor: C.J. ten Cate
With Summary in Dutch
Faculty: Faculteit der Wiskunde en Natuurwetenschappen
Citation: Chen, J., 2014, Doctoral Thesis, Leiden University
ISBN: 9789462036710
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/29164
 

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