Birds do it. Whales do it. Even elephants are getting in on the act.

No, we’re not talking about using language, but some of our animal friends are having a pretty good try at making human-like sounds. What’s going on?

Linguist Daniel Midgley talks to the animals on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Show notes

NOC the beluga whale made what could be charitably described as humanesque noises.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-23/scientist-report-whale-mimicking-human-voice/4328316
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/23/talking-whale-named-noc-revealed

They’re good mimics. One learned to imitate a whistle they used to train him.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvsvcnzFy-g

Koshik the Elephant can imitate Korean
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121101121534.htm
http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/11/02/3624166.htm

He puts his trunk in his mouth and modulates the sound that way.
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/6134/korean-elephant-can-imitate-human-speech-researchers

Listen:
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4287

Further reading on cetacean vocalisations, but approach claims with caution
http://www.whoi.edu/science/B/people/kamaral/marinemammalacoustics.html