CM – Dogs can tell the difference between human languages


Margaret Osborne

When neurobiologist Laura V. Cuaya moved from Mexico to Hungary with her Border Collie Kun-kun, she wondered if the dog could recognize that people were speaking another language.

“We know that People, even preverbal human infants, notice the difference, « Cuaya said in a statement. “But maybe dogs don’t bother. After all, we never make our dogs aware of what a certain language sounds like. ”

To find out, Cuaya and her research team at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest trained eighteen dogs of different breeds, including Kun-kun, in how to behave into a brain scanner while listening to excerpts from the children’s book The Little Prince in Spanish and Hungarian. All dogs had heard only one of the two languages ​​from their owners.

The researchers found that the two languages ​​triggered different patterns of activity in the part of the brain that processes complex sounds, thus showing for the first time that a non-human The brain can distinguish between languages. The results of the study were published in NeuroImage.

« It is a very exciting study because it shows that the ability to capture the sounds and rhythms of a familiar language is accessible to non-humans, » said Amritha Mallikarjun Alejandra Marquez Janse and Christopher Intagliata of NPR, researchers at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia who were not involved in the study, tell.

The researchers also found that older dogs were better able to differentiate between languages. « The longer a dog lives with its humans, it seems, the better it learns what their language sounds like, » explains a video summary of the research.

The team also tested whether the dogs could differentiate between language and non-language by playing mixed Spanish and Hungarian versions of the extracts to the dogs. They found that whatever language the dogs heard, they could tell the difference between nonsensical words and human language. In contrast to human brains, which have neural processes that are tuned to language, the dogs may have simply responded to the « naturalness of the sound, » says Raúl Hernández-Pérez, co-author of the study, in a statement.

Other research has shown that some animal species respond differently to different languages ​​in terms of behavior, but it is unclear whether dogs have unique hearing abilities Speech processing, ”says Attila Andics, lead author on the study, Sandee LaMotte of CNN.

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