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October 2021

Rethinking syntax: A commentary on E. Kako's ''Elements of syntax in the systems of three language-trained animals''

Journal/Book: Anim Learn Behav. 1999; 27: 1710 Fortview Rd, Austin, TX 78704, USA. Psychonomic Soc Inc. 15-17.

Abstract: Kako (1999) requests new studies of linguistic continua between humans and nonhumans. I question the value of such studies and the importance of determining whether any component of language is uniquely human. I argue that training of specific constructs (e.g., dosed classes) may not provide appropriate data, and that whether a particular species lacks or has human-like syntax likely results from specific ecological/evolutionary pressures. Social factors purported to drive intelligence and communication in primates likely exist for nonprimates such as parrots; moreover, Grey parrots demonstrate rudiments of supposedly uniquely human abilities: supralaryngeal vocal tract control, anticipatory coarticulation, and sound play.

Note: Editorial Pepperberg IM, Univ Arizona, Tucson,AZ 85721 USA


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