Link found between speech and birdsong
Language is deeply rooted in human biology, according to research comparing human genes with those of songbirds.
The similarities between some birds and humans emerged at the AAAS meeting in Boston during a session yesterday called “The Biological Roots of Language”.
The genes used during human speech are similar to those used by songbirds, research by Prof Erich Jarvis at Duke University has found.
The research suggests ancient brain systems evolved from primitive circuits controlling movement into systems for learning language in humans and song in birds.
The systems we have today manifest themselves extremely early, said Dr Janet Werker of the University of British Columbia. She and colleagues from the Université Paris Descartes showed how bilingual babies learn the grammar of both languages from early on.
“By as early as seven months, babies are sensitive to these differences and use these as cues to tell the languages apart,” she said.