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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2019 Oct;1453(1):12-21. doi: 10.1111/nyas.14230. Epub 2019 Sep 12.

Interactive rhythms across species: the evolutionary biology of animal chorusing and turn-taking.

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Artificial Intelligence Lab, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.
Institute for Advanced Study, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Research Department, Sealcentre Pieterburen, Pieterburen, the Netherlands.
Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Department NP&PP, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
Equipe Neuro-Ethologie Sensorielle, ENES/Neuro-PSI, CNRS UMR 9197, Université de Lyon/Saint-Etienne, Saint Etienne, France.


The study of human language is progressively moving toward comparative and interactive frameworks, extending the concept of turn-taking to animal communication. While such an endeavor will help us understand the interactive origins of language, any theoretical account for cross-species turn-taking should consider three key points. First, animal turn-taking must incorporate biological studies on animal chorusing, namely how different species coordinate their signals over time. Second, while concepts employed in human communication and turn-taking, such as intentionality, are still debated in animal behavior, lower level mechanisms with clear neurobiological bases can explain much of animal interactive behavior. Third, social behavior, interactivity, and cooperation can be orthogonal, and the alternation of animal signals need not be cooperative. Considering turn-taking a subset of chorusing in the rhythmic dimension may avoid overinterpretation and enhance the comparability of future empirical work.


bioacoustics; cooperation; interaction; language evolution; speech rhythm; synchrony

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