Dogs have the ability to distinguish vocabulary words and the intonation of human speech through brain regions similar to those that humans use, a new study reports.
Attila Andics et al. note that vocabulary learning “does not appear to be a uniquely human capacity that follows from the emergence of language, but rather a more ancient function that can be exploited to link arbitrary sound sequences to meanings.”
Also like humans, the researchers found that dogs process intonation separately from vocabulary, in auditory regions in the right hemisphere of the brain. Lastly, and also like humans, the team found that the dogs relied on both word meaning and intonation when processing the reward value of utterances.
Thus, dogs seem to understand both human words and intonation. The authors note that it is possible that selective forces during domestication could have supported the emergence of the brain structure underlying this capability in dogs, but, such rapid evolution of speech-related hemispheric asymmetries is unlikely.
Humans, they say, are only unique in their ability to invent words.
I trust a dog has never created an acronym 🙂