Dogs Can Tell The Difference Between Owner’s Native Tongue And Foreign Languages, Study Finds


Dogs’ brains have the ability to detect speech and distinguish between different languages, according to a study published in December.

Since family dogs are exposed to a continuous stream of human speech throughout their lives, researchers from the Department of Ethology at the Institute of Biology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary decided to study the extent of their abilities because speech perception is unknown. .

For example, if a family moved from the United States to China, would the dog be able to understand the Chinese language?

Laura Cuaya, one of the study’s lead authors, said the study was prompted by her own experiences. As said in EurekAlert! she moved from Mexico to Hungary to join the university for postdoctoral research and her dog, Kun-kun, joined her.

“Before, I only spoke to him in Spanish,” Cuaya said. “So I was wondering if Kun-kun had noticed that people in Budapest speak a different language, Hungarian. We know that people, even preverbal baby humans, notice the difference. But maybe dogs don’t s don’t care.”

A new study has revealed that dogs’ brains have the ability to detect speech and discriminate between different languages. A woman looks at her phone while walking four dogs during the first snowstorm of the season in Central Park on January 7 in New York City.
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to test speech detection and language representation in the brains of dogs, with dogs listening to natural speech and garbled speech in familiar and unfamiliar languages.

“Speech scrambling distorts auditory regularities specific to speech and a given language, but keeps spectral speech cues intact,” the study says. “We hypothesized that if dogs can extract auditory regularities from speech and familiar language, then there will be distinct patterns of brain activity for natural versus scrambled speech, and also for familiar language versus unfamiliar language.”

To test the ability of dogs’ brains to detect speech and represent language, dogs were presented with a natural, scrambled speech algorithm in Hungarian and Spanish.

A total of 18 adult family dogs participated, including nine females between the ages of 3 and 11 with an average age of around 6.6 years. The dog breeds included five golden retrievers, six border collies, two Australian shepherds, a labradoodle, a cocker spaniel and three mixed breeds.

Hungarian was the language spoken around 16 dogs, while Spanish was spoken around two dogs. The other language, or “unknown language”, was unknown to all dogs.

Additionally, 16 human adults with an average age of approximately 30.9 years participated in an online survey to assess the naturalness of the stimuli. The adults knew neither Hungarian nor Spanish. Their mother tongues were as follows: four French, three English, two Hebrew, two Italian, two Polish, one German, one Portuguese and one Swedish.

The researchers said distinct activity patterns were found for the two languages, Hungarian and Spanish, in the dogs’ brains “with a greater difference in responses to familiar and unfamiliar languages ​​in older dogs. , indicating a role for the amount of language exposure”.

Raul-Hernandez Perez, co-author of the study, said that “while the human brain is specially adapted for speech, the dog brain can simply detect the naturalness of sound”.

“It’s exciting because it reveals that the ability to learn the regularities of a language is not uniquely human,” added the study’s lead author, Attila Andics. “Still, we don’t know if this ability is the specialty of dogs or general among non-human species.

“Indeed, it’s possible that the brain has changed since the tens of thousands of years that dogs have lived with humans have made them better listeners of language, but that’s not necessarily the case.”

Future studies need to be conducted to better capture the language barrier between humans and dogs, he said.


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