Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 372:499-504, 2017
At the onset of vocal development, both songbirds and humans produce variable vocal babbling with broadly distributed acoustic features. Over development, these vocalizations differentiate into the well-defined, categorical signals that characterize adult vocal behaviour. A ...MORE ⇓
At the onset of vocal development, both songbirds and humans produce variable vocal babbling with broadly distributed acoustic features. Over development, these vocalizations differentiate into the well-defined, categorical signals that characterize adult vocal behaviour. A broadly distributed signal is ideal for vocal exploration, that is, for matching vocal production to the statistics of the sensory input. The developmental transition to categorical signals is a gradual process during which the vocal output becomes differentiated and stable. But does it require categorical input? We trained juvenile zebra finches with playbacks of their own developing song, produced just a few moments earlier, updated continuously over development. Although the vocalizations of these self-tutored (ST) birds were initially broadly distributed, birds quickly developed categorical signals, as fast as birds that were trained with a categorical, adult song template. By contrast, siblings of those birds that received no training (isolates) developed phonological categories much more slowly and never reached the same level of category differentiation as their ST brothers. Therefore, instead of simply mirroring the statistical properties of their sensory input, songbirds actively transform it into distinct categories. We suggest that the early self-generation of phonological categories facilitates the establishment of vocal culture by making the song easier to transmit at the micro level, while promoting stability of shared vocabulary at the group level over generations.This article is part of the themed issue 'New frontiers for statistical learning in the cognitive sciences'.
Nature 498(7452):104–108, 2013
Human language, as well as birdsong, relies on the ability to arrange vocal elements in new sequences. However, little is known about the ontogenetic origin of this capacity. Here we track the development of vocal combinatorial capacity in three species of vocal learners, ...MORE ⇓
Human language, as well as birdsong, relies on the ability to arrange vocal elements in new sequences. However, little is known about the ontogenetic origin of this capacity. Here we track the development of vocal combinatorial capacity in three species of vocal learners, combining an experimental approach in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) with an analysis of natural development of vocal transitions in Bengalese finches (Lonchura striata domestica) and pre-lingual human infants. We find a common, stepwise pattern of acquiring vocal transitions across species. In our first study, juvenile zebra finches were trained to perform one song and then the training target was altered, prompting the birds to swap syllable order, or insert a new syllable into a string. All birds solved these permutation tasks in a series of steps, gradually approximating the target sequence by acquiring new pairwise syllable transitions, sometimes too slowly to accomplish the task fully. Similarly, in the more complex songs of Bengalese finches, branching points and bidirectional transitions in song syntax were acquired in a stepwise fashion, starting from a more restrictive set of vocal transitions. The babbling of pre-lingual human infants showed a similar pattern: instead of a single developmental shift from reduplicated to variegated babbling (that is, from repetitive to diverse sequences), we observed multiple shifts, where each new syllable type slowly acquired a diversity of pairwise transitions, asynchronously over development. Collectively, these results point to a common generative process that is conserved across species, suggesting that the long-noted gap between perceptual versus motor combinatorial capabilities in human infants1 may arise partly from the challenges in constructing new pairwise vocal transitions.
Advances in Complex Systems 15(03n04):1150020, 2012
configure a pattern on a board to communicate with each other. Distinct from related studies, players in this game have no explicit game scores or tasks to optimize. Any dynamics occurring in this game are therefore ad-hoc and on-going processes. There were three major findings ...MORE ⇓
configure a pattern on a board to communicate with each other. Distinct from related studies, players in this game have no explicit game scores or tasks to optimize. Any dynamics occurring in this game are therefore ad-hoc and on-going processes. There were three major findings in this paper. (i) The subjects mainly interacted in two modes: a dynamic mode where players proceed through the game without assigning any meanings to the pattern, and a metaphoric mode, where players process with narrative reflection. (ii) Subjects spontaneously switch between the two modes, but this switching is suppressed when playing alone. (iii) A transition diagram of the board pattern can be used to label the two modes, e.g. linearity of the diagram is correlated with the metaphoric mode. One of the main features of grammar is to display subjects' intentionality in a systematic way. We argue that the switching between the two modes observed in our experiment can be taken as a grammatical aspect that emerged in the process. These modes express the speaker's perspective in the same manner as grammatical elements do in natural language. The switching behavior should be seen as a process that embodies a player's intention using the medium (in this case, the patterns in the wall game), and a player's exploration of the medium is a necessary step before generating a grammar structure.
ECAL99, pages 639-643, 1999
This paper is concerned about the origin of pheromone communication in complex societies, eg, colonies of real ants and bees. The aim of the work is to study whether pheromone communication among artificial ant agents in a cooperative foraging scenario can arise ...