Combinatorial structures in the vocal systems of non-primate animals

14.12.2016 - 17:00
14.12.2016 - 19:00

Dr. Simon Townsend

Dept. of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry / UK

Over the last decade, a body of data has emerged demonstrating that primates are capable of combining vocalisations together into larger meaningful structures. Given their phylogenetic proximity to humans this has led some to suggest that the evolutionary origins of human combinatorial abilities are more ancient than previously thought, rooted within the primate lineage. The extent to which similar abilities, particularly meaningful combinations of sounds, exist outside the primates has received comparatively less research attention. I will review recent advances in understanding regarding the combinatorial capacities of non-primates, primarily social-living birds, and discuss both the communicative relevance of such structures and what (very) tentative insight they might provide into the evolutionary progression of human linguistic abilities.