Origins of Human Language - Birdsong

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Overview

Many kinds of birds sing. Some birds sing simple songs while others are capable of 200 varieties of songs. Studies suggest that certain properties of birdsong extend beyond the musical patterns to a biological model that might provide clues to the evolutionary origin of human speech. In this course, we will look at the basics of the science of birdsong. We will then discuss the degree and relevance of behavioral, neural and evolutionary analogies between birdsong and human speech by looking especially the song evolution in Bengalese finches. After that, we reinforce the idea with socio-emotional factors in birdsong. Finally, we will discuss what we can learn about evolution of human speech from birdsong studies.

Syllabus

Module 1: Basics of birdsong

Module 2: Development of birdsong

Module 3: Mechanisms of song learning

Module 4: Social context in song learning

Module 5: Evolution in Bengalese finch songs: Evolution

Module 6: Evolution in Bengalese finch songs: Development

Module 7: Evolution in Bengalese finch songs: Mechanisms

Module 8: Evolution in Bengalese finch songs: Function

Module 9: Evolution in Bengalese finch songs: Summing up

Module 10: Socio-emotional factors

Module 11: From birdsong to the origin of language