Earlier this month, researchers reported that parrotlet chicks learn their calls from their parents, much like human children do from mom and dad. The study is the latest to challenge the idea that only humans use language. Why do animals vocalize in the wild? Are these sounds similar to human language? And what might these studies tell us about the evolution of our own language abilities?
Join us for a live chat on this page at 3 p.m. EDT on Thursday, 28 July, to ask prominent scientists about these and related topics. You can leave your questions in the comment box below before the chat starts.
Ofer Tchernichovski is a biopsychology professor at Hunter College, City University of New York. He uses the songbird to study mechanisms of vocal learning. His lab studies the animal behavior and dynamics of vocal learning and sound production across different brain levels. The lab aims to uncover the specific physiological and molecular (gene expression) brain processes that underlie song learning.
Michael J. Owren
Michael J. Owren is a cognitive science professor and biopsychologist at Georgia State University. He and his graduate students study vocal communication in human and nonhuman primates, including laughter and other nonlinguistic vocalizations. Recent work at Georgia State's Language Research Center has demonstrated surprisingly sophisticated speech-perception capabilities in an adult chimpanzee that had been raised from just a few days of age by human caregivers who treated her much as they would a human infant.