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Songbirds have a thing for patterns


PhysOrg

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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. In fact, the higher-level patterns—those words—are key in learning to recognize and place speech sounds into meaningful categories. That's why children who grow up in Japanese-speaking homes don't recognize the difference between 'r' and 'l' sounds. In Japanese, that distinction doesn't matter. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on June 25 present evidence from European starlings showing that songbirds learn their songs in much the same way.

 

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