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Re: The Starling's Song 2: The Revenge (was Re: Cognitive Linguistics, "The Language Instinct", and High-Functioning Autistics)

From:Alex Fink <a4pq1injbok_0@...>
Date:Friday, May 12, 2006, 1:32
On Thu, 11 May 2006 12:05:48 -0700, David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...> wrote:

>Regarding our recent discussion of cognition and animals, I >found this article stating that starlings' songs show recursive >center-embedding on the UCSD homepage: > > > >I'd heard someone talking about this guy giving a colloquium >a few weeks back, but they must not have explained it well, >because I sure didn't get *this* out of their description.
Well, they don't _show_ recursive center embedding; the claim is that they can recognize a language that shows recursive center embedding. If that's not a misleading thing to call it: the language is a^n b^n = {0, ab, aabb, aaabbb, ...} (a and b being rattles and warbles, resp.) which is produced by a context-free grammar S ::= a S b | empty But one can explain this result by attributing much more restricted capabilities to the starlings than processing arbitrary center embedding. The one I think is most plausible is that they're just counting or timing the strings of as and bs and comparing the lengths. Language Log has a substantial discussion: Alex