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October 17 2012

Is language unique to humans?


When Alex unexpectedly passed away after only thirty-one years of life, his last words to his dearest friend were, "You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you." A touching sentiment indeed, but all the more impressive because Alex was an African Grey Parrot. Over the course of thirty years of work between psychologist Irene Pepperberg and Alex, purchased from a Chicago pet store at one year of age, the parrot amassed a vocabulary of some 150 words. According to one report, he was able to recognize fifty different objects, could count quantities up to six, and could distinguish among seven colours and five shapes. He also understood the ideas of "bigger" and "smaller", and "same" and "different".

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