Next meeting April 9: Sanne Moorman

The next Origins of Language meeting will take place on April 9th, 17:15-19:00, in the Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21.

Sanne Moorman, behavioral biologist (UU), will present a talk entitled A biological perspective on origins of language: Parallels between birdsong and human speech. Abstract:

To approach language evolution from a biological viewpoint, I will discuss behavioral, linguistic, genetic and neural parallels between birdsong and human speech. Unlike non-human primates, songbirds learn to vocalize very much like human infants acquire spoken language. Songbirds learn to sing in two partly overlapping phases: a memorization phase during which they form an internal representation (a ‘template’) of the song of their tutor, and a sensorimotor learning phase in which they start to produce their own song. In humans, Broca’s area in the frontal lobe and Wernicke’s area in the temporal lobe are crucially involved in speech production and perception, respectively. There is a similar neural dissociation between song perception and production in songbirds. Human brain regions involved in speech and language show characteristic left-sided dominance in their activation pattern. We have recently shown that similar lateralization can be found in the songbird brain. It is possible that auditory-vocal learning is associated with hemispheric specialization, and that this association arose in songbirds and humans through convergent evolution. 


I hope to see you all there!