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Proceedings Paper

Referential use of American English speech by an African Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus): phonological output reflects cognitive capacities
Author(s): Irene M. Pepperberg
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Paper Abstract

A grey parrot, Alex, comprehends and uses English labels to label objects, colors, shapes, and materials. He combines labels to identify proficiently, request, and refuse > 100 different objects. He categorizes objects with respect to color, shape or material, understands concepts of same/different, bigger/smaller, absence of information, and uses the phrases 'come here', 'I want X' and 'Wanna go Y' where X and Y are object or location labels. He distinguishes quantities to 6, including collections of novel objects, heterogeneous sets, sets involving random arrays; he labels the number of items uniquely defined by the combination of one color and one object category. Given a 7-member collection, he can provide information about the specific instance of one category of an item uniquely defined by the conjunction of two other categories, e.g., 'What object is color-A and shape-B' These results show that Alex, unlike nonhuman primates, both produces and comprehends phonological distinctions. Simple labeling has been replicated with additional subjects. The problem of mutual interest, therefore, is determining the mechanisms that a nonhuman, nonprimate, nonmammal uses to make these distinctions. Imaging systems have unlocked the secrets of the human vocal tract; we now need to examine nonhumans.

Paper Details

Date Published: 9 May 1997
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 3033, Medical Imaging 1997: Physiology and Function from Multidimensional Images, (9 May 1997); doi: 10.1117/12.274029
Show Author Affiliations
Irene M. Pepperberg, Univ. of Arizona (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3033:
Medical Imaging 1997: Physiology and Function from Multidimensional Images
Eric A. Hoffman, Editor(s)

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