Date:June 25, 2015
Summary:You might think that young children would first learn to recognize sounds and then learn how those categories of sounds fit together into words. But that isn't how it works. Rather, kids learn sounds and words at the same time. Now, researchers present evidence from European starlings showing that songbirds learn their songs in much the same way.
'It wasn't clear whether this kind of learning -- where knowledge of a pattern informs understanding about the categories that make up the patterns -- was unique to humans and language, or is a more general process shared with other animals,' says Timothy Gentner of the University of California, San Diego. 'We showed that this kind of learning is shared with, at least, songbirds. When birds learn to recognize patterns of song elements, they get a big boost in their ability to categorize those elements.'