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Psycholinguistics Supper: Dr. Ofer Tchernichovksi (Hunter)

SEP 04, 2012 | 6:30 PM TO 8:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




September 04, 2012: 6:30 PM-8:00 PM




Vocal learning in songbirds and human infants

Abstract: The ability to rearrange vocal elements into sequences that match sensory templates is the cornerstone of human speech and of birdsong. After a discussion of the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of bird songs, I present work from our laboratory on how the combinatorial ability of songbirds comes about in the course of vocal development. We trained juvenile zebra finches to perform one song and then altered the training target so that it prompted them to swap syllable order or to insert a new syllable into a string. By recording the entire vocal output of the birds during the learning process, we can examine how they solve these permutation tasks. That in turn allows a comparative analysis of vocal development (babbling) across human infants and songbirds.