March 24, 2006

Talks with Whales

Research News from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute: Warbling Whales Speak a Language All Their Own

“Researchers have now mathematically confirmed that whales have their own syntax that uses sound units to build phrases that can be combined to form songs that last for hours.
" 'Humpback songs are not like human language, but elements of language are seen in their songs,' said Ryuji Suzuki, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) predoctoral fellow in neuroscience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and first author of the paper."

Human linguists, please note: "... the authors do not claim that humpback whale songs meet the linguistic rigor necessary for a true language."

Lots of information for the popular cognitive scientist at the HHMI site (including sound files of the whales talking to each other), or see “Information entropy of humpback whale songs,“ by Ryuji Suzuki, John R. Buck, and Peter L. Tyack (2006) The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. Volume 119, Issue 3, pp. 1849-1866. The abstract is available for free; full-text may be available @ your library.

Thanks to Bob for the story.

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