Where apes and songbirds are left behind:

A comparative assessment of the requisites for speech

Erin Colbert-White
October 16, 2014

A handful of mammalian and avian species can imitate speech (i.e., sounds perceived by humans as those comprising the human communication system of language). Of those species, even fewer are capable of using speech to communicate. While there has been no empirical comparison of nonhuman speech users, parrots are presumed to be the most prolific. In this talk, I will identify several anatomical, neurological, and sociobiological features shared by parrots and humans that could account for why parrots might emerge as the most advanced nonhuman speech users. Apes and temperate oscine songbirds, due to their phylogenetic similarity to humans and parrots, respectively, are also included in the comparison.