"Yes, human language is unique, but if you take it apart in the right way, the two parts we identify are in fact of a finite state, Miyagawa emphasised."
New York, June 12 - Do we share our language with birds and primates? Yes, asserts a new research.
In a new paper, two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professors claim that by re-examining contemporary human language, we can see indications of how human communication could have evolved from the systems underlying the older communication modes of birds and other primates.
How did human language arise? It is far enough in the past that we cannot just go back and figure it out directly, said linguist Shigeru Miyagawa from MIT.
The best we can do is come up with a theory that is broadly compatible with what we know about human language and other similar systems in nature, he added.
For instance, the silvery gibbon found on Java island sings. It can vocalise long, complicated songs, using 14 different note types.
From birds, researchers say, we derived the melodic part of our language, and from other primates the pragmatic, content-carrying parts of speech.
According to Miyagawa and his colleagues, some apparently infinite qualities of modern human language, when re-analysed, actually display the finite qualities of languages of other animals - meaning that human communication is more similar to that of other animals than we generally realised.
Yes, human language is unique, but if you take it apart in the right way, the two parts we identify are in fact of a finite state, Miyagawa emphasised.
Those two components have antecedents in the animal world. According to our hypothesis, they came together uniquely in human language, said the paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.