February 25, 2024

Animal language: Researchers take a step forward in understanding whales thanks to artificial intelligence | Life and knowledge

Researchers set out to study sperm whale clicks using artificial intelligence, and discovered significant similarities to human speech.

Rhythmic native language

the The sperm whale’s song is a primal sound, as if stepped out of time. But to communicate with each other, these gentle giants use clicking sounds that they use to probe the depths of the water. Like Morse code, its rhythmic signals echo across the vastness of the ocean at speeds of up to 230 decibels.

These sperm whale click words are called codas and each consists of about three to twenty clicks.

This opens up a variety of possibilities for combining word-like signals with each other. There seem to be regional dialects. But compared to our human languages, vocabulary remains greatly limited.

He slanders

A research group led by linguist Gasper Bigos of the University of California, Berkeley, and marine biologist Shane Jero may have discovered a new dimension in whale language: He slanders Clicking sounds.

So five clicks in one step can mean something different than in another step. Vocabulary potential increases dramatically.

The scientists presented their findings in a study that has not yet been independently reviewed.

Artificial intelligence finds vowels and two-voiced sounds

The team set out to identify clear patterns in sperm whale signals through the wealth of audio recordings, rhythms and frequencies. artificial intelligence behind. The algorithm found something surprising: sperm whales appear to use a type of vowel.

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While the German language had five vowels a, e, i, o, u, sperm whales had at least two. What’s more, they used these vowels to form double sounds, that is, a combination of two vowels, such as ei or au.

The scientists said the whales’ clicking sounds “resemble human vowels and diphthongs (ambiguous sounds) on many levels”, and thus the vocalizations are “more informative and complex than previously assumed.”

In other words: There is growing evidence that whale language is actually a complex language. What exactly they are saying is still unclear.