Communication: Whale songs resemble real speech

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Communication: Whale songs resemble real speech
Communication: Whale songs resemble real speech

Whale songs resemble real speech

In their songs, whales combine elements like humans do sentences and clauses, American scientists found out. They discovered a criterion that is important for linguists: the whale sounds follow certain hierarchical rules, which was previously only known in this form from human language.

Ryuji Suzuki of the Institute of Technology in Massachusetts and his colleagues had studied the songs of humpback whales off Hawaii. They developed a computer program that classifies the structures behind the tone sequences and analyzes the average information content of individual sounds.

Parallel to this, the researchers asked people who had never listened to whales to rate whale songs before. The subjects were asked to indicate how complex and predictable they found their melodies.

Humans and computers agreed: whale language is relatively rigid and characterized by frequent repetitions. It is composed of elements of different lengths, of which the short ones consist of 6, but others consist of 180 to 240 units. These elements compose the animals according to certain hierarchical patterns. However, while whales exchange one bit of information per song second, each spoken word in English contains an average of ten bits.

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