Birds get one step closer to being smarter than you.
Source: Science of Us
10 MAR 2016 - 10:36 AM UPDATED 10 MAR 2016 - 10:36 AM
Fine, so various species of animals have demonstrated signs of traits we might once have considered “uniquely human” — empathy, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence, to name just a few. But grammar! We humans still have our grammar in general, and syntax in particular. That still makes us special, right?
Maybe not, reports the Washington Post’s Rachel Feltman. According to a new paper in Nature Communications, a particular type of bird — the Japanese great tit, similar to the chickadee in North America — uses syntax in its communication with its fellow birds. More specifically, as Feltman writes, these birds use a particular type of syntax: compositional, referring to the way a sentence or, in this case, a series of chirps — is structured. We humans use compositional syntax to get across complex ideas. For example:
“Careful, it’s dangerous” is a phrase that has meaning, and so is “come toward me.” When those two phrases are combined, they have a different meaning than they do on their own: They’re directing the receiver to act in a different way than either phrase would independently.