Dogs are able to distinguish their "mother tongue"

A scientific study has just shown that dogs know the difference between their language

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The most alert among them are even able to understand and memorize more than 200 words and to distinguish objects by simply mentioning their name, like the now famous dogs Rico and Chaser.

But is their brain able to differentiate between languages? It would seem so, if we are to believe the results of the work of a team of ethologists from the Eötvös Lorànd University of Budapest in Hungary.

A move from Mexico to Hungary

Great discoveries are sometimes the result of life's coincidences. If ethologists have been interested in the ability of the dog brain to distinguish between different human languages, it is thanks to the story of Kun-Kun.

Kun-Kun is a border collie who followed his mistress, an ethology who left Mexico to move to Hungary. She wondered how her dog would react to hearing people speak a completely different language from the one he had always known.

Was it going to make a difference like human babies do? What was going to happen in his brain?

Different activity patterns in the cerebral cortex

To answer these questions, the team of Hungarian ethologists therefore trained dogs to remain motionless in a scanner while they were shown extracts from The Little Prince in Spanish and Hungarian. The dogs selected for the study had never heard either of these languages.

By observing the images obtained during the experiment, the researchers found tongue-specific activity patterns in the dogs' secondary auditory cortex.These models would be proof that our faithful canines are well able to distinguish their "mother tongue" , the one they have always known in the mouths of their owners, from a foreign language.

This faculty had so far only been demonstrated in another animal known for its great intelligence, the elephant.

Dogs able to distinguish gibberish from real language

More surprising still, the study also showed that dogs can also tell the difference between incoherent words and a text that makes sense.

For this, the researchers also released a scrambled and meaningless version of Saint-Exupéry's text to study its impact on the brain images of dogs. Dogs would thus have the ability to detect whether a sentence is "natural" or not and would be quite capable of distinguishing gibberish from meaningful language.

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