Language discrimination by human newborns and by cotton-top tamarin monkeys

Ramus, Franck and Hauser, Marc D. and Miller, Cory and Morris, Dylan and Mehler, Jacques (2000) Language discrimination by human newborns and by cotton-top tamarin monkeys. [Journal (Paginated)]


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Humans, but no other animal, make meaningful use of spoken language. What is unclear, however, is whether this capacity depends on a unique constellation of perceptual and neurobiological mechanisms, or whether a subset of such mechanisms are shared with other organisms. To explore this problem, we conducted parallel experiments on human newborns and cotton-top tamarin monkeys to assess their ability to discriminate unfamiliar languages. Using a habituation-dishabituation procedure, we show that human newborns and tamarins can discriminate sentences from Dutch and Japanese, but not if the sentences are played backwards. Moreover, the cues for discrimination are not present in backward speech. This suggests that the human newborns' tuning to certain properties of speech relies on general processes of the primate auditory system.

Item Type:Journal (Paginated)
Keywords:language discrimination rhythm comparative speech perception tamarin newborn evolution
Subjects:Biology > Animal Cognition
Biology > Evolution
Biology > Primatology
Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Psychology > Comparative Psychology
Psychology > Developmental Psychology
Linguistics > Phonology
Psychology > Psycholinguistics
ID Code:870
Deposited By: Ramus, Dr Franck
Deposited On:17 Jul 2000
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

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