Can “Parrot Talk” Throw Light on Human Language Evolution?

by Tanya Thomas on Nov 11 2008 4:24 PM

In order to once and for all put to rest the question of human language evolution, a Scottish research team is turning towards our avian friends to demystify this human linguistic secret. The birds they plan to study include parrots, ravens, and pigeons.

Researchers at St Andrews University have revealed that their plan is to compare "highly intelligent" parrots and ravens with "cognitively normal" pigeons, which they believe may reveal how human intelligence and language involved.

The team have secured a funding of 3.25 million pounds from the new European Research Council for their five-year study.

Project leaders Professor Kevin Laland and Dr Tecumseh Fitch say that they will conduct a series of experiments on chimpanzees, birds, and other animals to determine whether such creatures too can have human skills like speech, art and music.

The researchers believe that their study may enable them to draw a link between parts of the human brain used for language and those used for art.

"The project is expected to offer a major step forward in our understanding of human evolution, adaptation and culture and to stimulate interdisciplinary exchange," the Scotsman quoted Prof. Laland as saying.