Newswise – Scientists have discovered that mammals other than humanscan tell which language we?re speaking. They may not know ifit?s French or English, but they recognize the differentspeech patterns. We all know that our dogs recognize wordslike ?walk? and some primates can tell if you switch fromone language to another, but now this ability has been seen,for the first time, in rats.
Sixteen rats were able to pick up enough language cues fromrhythm and intonation to be able to distinguish Dutch fromJapanese. Researchers trained the rats to press a lever whenthey heard a five-second recorded sentence in one of thelanguages, then they tested the rats? response to the otherlanguage. The rats that were rewarded for responding toJapanese did not respond to Dutch?and vice versa.
So far, this special ability to distinguish language fromanother has only been seen in three different mammals:humans (both newborn and adult), Tamarin monkeys, and nowrats. Rats are the first non-primate mammals to be studied.
The rats scored best when the same person switched from onelanguage to another. When different people spoke, they foundit harder to tell the languages apart.
Researcher Juan Toro says, ?It was striking to find thatrats can track certain information that seems to be soimportant in language development in humans.? According toToro, this shows ?which abilities that humans use forlanguage are shared with other animals, and which areuniquely human. It also suggests what sort of evolutionaryprecursors language might have.?
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