We used to think that only primates could understand language, and that to other animals, it was just noises… even to parrots, who can imitate us. But that seems to have been wrong. Over at Edge there’s an article about “THAT DAMN BIRD”, which is an African Grey Parrot whose behaviour has led a researcher to claim he is actually understanding what he’s saying in tests. Which is absolutely fascinating since it challenges a lot of what we thought we knew about language and brains. But it’s also frustrating to some scientists, which is why the title of the article contains the (mild) cuss… this is really worth a look.
It makes me think about other changes that happen in animals when they live in close proximity to humans. I wonder if, despite all the centuries of careful breeding that gave them amazing human-focused social awareness, dogs’ grasp of social interactions doesn’t develop quite as deeply when it lives in the wild… I don’t know, but I wonder.
And it also raises the question that people often ask about feral children, which is, how human can a human actually be when that human has no experience of language or culture during its crucial early development phase?