Studies show: bat babbling is like human baby babbling!

child development language acquisition linguistics Oct 25, 2022
Baby bat

An important stage of language development in humans is the babbling stage. During this time, toddlers make a range of specific sounds as they practise and imitate adult speech. But humans are not the only vocal learners, so do other species babble too in their primary stages of language acquisition?

In a study carried out in August 2021, Fernandez et al. recorded the vocalizations of sac-winged bat pups in the wild and found clear evidence of babbling that was consistent with that seen in humans. They analyzed the babbling of 20 bat pups during a 3-month period of development and compared its features to those that characterize babbling in human infants.

Their findings demonstrated that babbling in bat pups is characterized by the same eight features as babbling in human infants, including the conspicuous features: reduplication and rhythmicity.

So these shared babbling components suggest that vocal learning may have similar specific mechanisms across a wide array of mammalian species. These parallels in the vocal development between humans and bats offer future possibilities for the comparison of cognitive and neuromolecular mechanisms too, along with the adaptive functions of babbling in bats and humans!

So if you hear a chatty bat this Halloween, spend a moment or two marvelling at the fact that we share common ground in the way we babble!

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