Japanese quail can learn phonetic categories

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Science  04 Sep 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4819, pp. 1195-1197
DOI: 10.1126/science.3629235


Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix) learned a category for syllable-initial [d] followed by a dozen different vowels. After learning to categorize syllables consisting of [d], [b], or [g] followed by four different vowels, quail correctly categorized syllables in which the same consonants preceded eight novel vowels. Acoustic analysis of the categorized syllables revealed no single feature or pattern of features that could support generalization, suggesting that the quail adopted a more complex mapping of stimuli into categories. These results challenge theories of speech sound classification that posit uniquely human capacities.