According to journalist Seth Borenstein:
While many animals can roar, sing, grunt or otherwise make noise, linguists have contended for years that the key to distinguishing language skills goes back to our elementary school teachers and basic grammar.But don't get too cocky, Big Head. We're not so special after all. Apparently, researchers (with way too much free time and government grants than are good for them, I'd reckon) have taught common starlings to recognize "the most basic of grammar in their own bird language." He doesn't say if the birds then go on to learn to recite bad poetry or write in their diaries, but I imagine it's inevitable. I'm not one to advocate keeping birds in captivity, but I really hope they don't release those poetry-reciting ones into the wild. Or into my neighbourhood, anyway.
Have you ever noticed, though, how an article about something like spelling or grammar or whatever suddenly makes you hyper-aware of spelling and
Sentences that contain an explanatory clause are something that humans can recognize, but not animals, researchers figured.Last time I checked, weren't human beings also animals? Sorry to sound peevish, but this is a minor beef of mine. (Get it? Beef? Not really? Okay.)
To put the trained starlings' grammar skills in perspective, Mr. Gentner said they do not match up to either of his sons, ages 2 and 9 months.Ages 2 and 9 months? Two months and 9 months? Two years and 9 months? Sloppy, sloppy. But I'm sure it's better than a trained starling could do.
But starlings may be more apt vocalizers, however, and have a better grasp of language than non-human primates.Mr. Borenstein. You can have the "but" or you can have the "however." You cannot have both, sir.
Yes, I'm being nitpicky. It's what I DO.
*Note how this sentence craftily absolves me from adhering to my own high standards. Well played, if I say so myself.