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Social Context Influences Language

时间: 2011年02月28日 | 作者: | 来源: 环球科学


 

Language is inherently social. So it doesn’t necessarily surprise us that social cues can impact our verbal ability. It's still fascinating to see how much impact it has. Past studies have shown that infants babble better in their mother's presence. Surprisingly, toddlers speak in more complex sentences when alone in their crib chatting with their stuffed toys.

Well here’s another one. This time with birds. A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that teenage male songbirds sing better the presence of a female bird. We are talking a lot better.

Similar to us, birds learn to sing by mimicking the adults, and the early chirps are akin to a baby's babble. They learn through practice alone or with other birds. But what this study of young zebra finches found, is that if the teen, even in the midst of his singing education, is near a female he is able to throw down the best version of the song. And this best version typically has a similar syllable structure, variation and sequence as the final adult version of the song.

Not only does this study provide insight into how communication develops it’s another example of the powerful influence mating can have on social behavior.

—Christie Nicholson