How have biology and culture shaped the evolution of word-meaning?
Can we find evidence for social skills in non-human animal species which are prerequisites for word learning?
Does neural processing of vocalizations share similarities across species?
Can non-human animals represent speech sounds similar to humans, i.e. do those have a referential meaning?
To answer these questions we study the communication skills of three mammalian species (human, dog and pigs) using brain imaging and behavioral studies.
In our research, we focus on three main aspects of communicative behavior:
- Social, interspecific skills which do not involve vocalization or verbal comprehension
- Vocal processing (e.g. emotional content of speech and animal sounds)
- Emergence of lexical representations (e.g. word-acquisition, statistical learning of speech sound regularities)