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Bird Grammar

Filed under: Animal Rights
Mary Poppins

In tune, yes, but are they grammatically correct?

You remember that scene in Mary Poppins when she’s singing “Just a Spoonful of Sugar” and a bird (looking suspiciously mechanical) starts chirping along with her? Well, up until now I’d always thought that the bird was just singing, and communicating “give me a worm” in birdish or something like that.

It turns out, however, according to a story from the AP that birds know grammar, and that the bird might have been parsing Dame Julie’s sentence structure and not just chirruping. The story features a lot of esoteric exercises that prove that birds can learn complex communication strings, but, bottom line according to the story, “What the experiment shows is that language and animal cognition is a lot more complicated than scientists once thought and that there is no “single magic bullet” that separates man from beast. . . .”

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