Constraints on the lexicons of human languages have cognitive roots present in baboons (Papio papio)

Emmanuel Chemla · Isabelle Dautriche · Brian Buccola · Joel Fagot

Last updated: August 2018

Full paper: pdf

Abstract: Using a pattern extraction task, we show that baboons, like humans, have a learning bias that helps them discover connected patterns more easily than disconnected ones, i.e. they favor rules like ‘contains between 20% and 60% red’ over rules like ‘contains less than 20% or more than 60% red’. The task was made as similar as possible to a task previously run on humans, which was argued to reveal a bias that is responsible for shaping the lexicons of human languages, both content words (nouns and adjectives) and logical words (quantifiers). The current baboon result thus suggests that the cognitive roots responsible for regularities across the content and logical lexicons of human languages are present in a similar form in other species.

Keywords: connectedness · human languages and their lexicons · primate semantics