Some rats know Japanese!

Like humans and monkeys, rats can tell two languages apart from speech cues, say neuroscientists.

| Updated on: Jan 17 2005, 04:45 IST

Rats can tell two languages apart from speech cues, joining humans and Tamarin monkeys in having such abilities, according to a group of Spanish neuroscientists.

The group, led by Juan Toro, a PhD candidate at the University of Barcelona, found that well-trained rats can distinguish spoken Japanese from spoken Dutch.

Their study of 16 rats found that 'they were able to pick up enough cues from the rhythm and intonation of human speech to tell spoken Dutch from spoken Japanese.'

'What's more, the rats generalized the ability to differentiate to new Dutch and new Japanese sentences they had not heard before,' Toro wrote in the January issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Process.

But the Spanish team cautioned that the rats' linguistic sophistication was limited.

'Rats have not evolved the ability to track prosodic cues for linguistic requirements.' Toro said. 'The ability to tell apart two different languages is a byproduct of more general perceptual abilities used for detecting time order through hearing — a useful adaptation for the rat.

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First Published Date: 14 Jan, 00:39 IST
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