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Statistical and Prosodic Cues for Song Segmentation Learning by Bengalese Finches (Lonchura striata var. domestica)

Authors

  • Miki Takahasi,

    1.  Laboratory for Biolinguistics, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Japan
    2.  Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
    3.  Graduate School of Science and Technology, Chiba University, Inage-ku, Japan
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  • Hiroko Yamada,

    1.  Laboratory for Biolinguistics, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Japan
    2.  Graduate School of Science and Technology, Chiba University, Inage-ku, Japan
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  • Kazuo Okanoya

    1.  Laboratory for Biolinguistics, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Japan
    2.  Graduate School of Science and Technology, Chiba University, Inage-ku, Japan
    3.  PRESTO, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Kawaguchi, Saitama, Japan
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Kazuo Okanoya, Laboratory for Biolinguistics, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Saitama 351-0198 Japan
E-mail: okanoya@brain.riken.jp

Abstract

Juvenile songbirds learn their songs from adults. Birds do not simply learn songs verbatim but they sometimes learn parts of songs from multiple tutors and recombine these into one song sequence. How they segment a particular part and select that as a chunk and how these chunks are recombined are interesting questions to ask, because such segmentation and chunking is also considered to be a basic mechanism in human language acquisition. The song of the Bengalese finch has a complex syntax with variable note-to-note transition probabilities and could thus be suitable for the study of segmentation and chunking in birdsong. Thirty-two male Bengalese finch chicks were reared in a large aviary where 11 adult tutors and 10 adult females were breeding freely. In this environment most male chicks learned songs from several tutors. The song note-chunks that juveniles copied had higher transition probabilities and shorter silent intervals than did the boundaries of the chunks, suggesting that Bengalese finches segment songs using both statistical and prosodic cues. Thus, the Bengalese finch could prove to be an excellent model in which to study neural and behavioral mechanism for sound segmentation.

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