Can baboons read?

Not exactly, but in a recent experiment, they could tell the difference between real words and fake words. What does this tell us about animals, and what could it do for us?

Linguist Daniel Midgley spells it out on this episode of Talk the Talk.

Listen to this episode

Or subscribe via iTunes
Click here for more options: How to listen to Talk the Talk

Show notes

The original article in Science (paywall)

And several good breakdowns (sciency ones first).

Writing’s only been around for a short time
so our brains would have had to use whatever visual and pattern recognition skills were at hand.

Dyslexia may be a failure of visual attention, rather than letter-to-phoneme processing.

The authors think the apes are processing ‘bigrams’, or two letters at a time. (PDF)

But why would that be necessary? Yoav Goldberg can get computer models to do it by assessing probabilities of single letters.

This post by Mark Liberman of Language Log shows how low-frequency letters can push down the probability of a string of letters being an actual word.