Speak, Starling

View Images

Today I’ve got an article in the New York Times about the report in Nature that starlings can recognize syntax-like patterns in songs, and what that might mean–if anything–for the evolution of language. The blogs have been buzzing about the study since it came out on Wednesday, with the Language Log logging in several complaints about bad science and bad reporting. (Fortunately, they gave me a pass, and I hope not merely because I’m the brother of one of the bloggers there!)

So why should you now turn to Tuesday’s science section of the Times, days after the wires and the blogs have had their way with this material? I hope that with the luxury of a little extra time, I’ve been able to get the science relatively straight, and to offer a sense of why it is inspiring so much debate. Plus, we’ve got starling songs for you to hear! Check it out.

Update: Tuesday 9 am–article link fixed.