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VI. Life’s Cerebral Cognizance Becomes More Complex, Smarter, Informed, Proactive, Self-Aware

2. Organisms Evolve Rhythmic Protolanguage Communication

Youngblood, Mason. Language-like efficiency and structure in house finch song. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. April, 2024. As his bio below says, by way of the latest computational abilities, it is now possible to find generic similarities between avian twittering and the social network Twitter. The same mathematical formats thus seem to repeat themselves in kind across each and every conversational mode.

Communication needs to be complex enough to be functional while minimizing learning and production costs. Recent work suggests that the vocalizations and gestures of some songbirds, cetaceans and great apes may conform to linguistic laws that reflect this trade-off between efficiency and complexity. In these studies, clustering signals into types cannot be done a priori, and an analysis may affect statistical signals in the data. Here we assess the language-like efficiency and structure in house finch song across three levels of granularity in syllable clustering. The results show strong evidence for Zipf's rank–frequency law, Zipf's law of abbreviation and Menzerath's law. These statistical patterns are robust and exhibit a degree of scale invariance. (Excerpt)

My name is Mason Youngblood, and I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at Stony Brook University. In my research, I apply methods from cognitive science, computational social science, and cultural evolution to questions about human and non-human animal behavior. Specifically, I’m interested in understanding how cognitive biases and population structure shape the cultural evolution of behaviors and beliefs (e.g. music, extremist ideology, birdsong, conspiracy theories).

Zhang, Ye, et al. More than Words: Word Predictability, Prosody, Gesture and Mouth Movements in Natural Language Comprehension.. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. July, 2021. University College London and University of Konstanz, Germany psychologists add a novel experimental basis by which to understand and demonstrate that our human communications are actually made up of dual literate speech and visual movements which then compose and convey a rhythmic message.

The ecology of human language is face-to-face interaction, comprising cues such as prosody, co-speech gestures and expressions. Yet, the multimodal context is usually stripped away in experiments as dominant paradigms focus on linguistic processing only. In our studies we found that brain’s response to words were affected by the informativeness of diverse, reciprocal cues, indicating that comprehension relies on both linguistic and imagistic sights. Thus, our results show that many nonverbal, postural aspects are integral to comprehension, hence, this field of study must move beyond the limited focus on speech and linguistic processing alone. (Abstract)

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