Babies learn to babble before they learn to talk, at first simply repeating individual syllables (as in ba-ba-ba), and later stringing various syllables together (as in ba-da-goo). Songbirds exhibit similar patterns during song-learning, and the capacity for this sort of syllable sequencing is widely believed to be innate and to emerge full-blown — a theory that is challenged by a paper published on Nature's website today1.
A study of three species — zebra finches, Bengalese finches and humans — reports that none of the trio has it that easy. Their young all have to learn how to string syllables together slowly, pair by pair.
“We discovered a previously unsuspected stage in human vocal development,” says first author Dina Lipkind, a psychologist now at Hunter College in New York.
Via Sakis Koukouvis