By Sam Blanchard For Mailonline
Published: 20:00 BST, 9 September 2019 | Updated: 20:00 BST, 9 September 2019
Birds may form their language in the same way people do by stringing together otherwise meaningless sounds, a study suggests.
When made on their own, vowel and consonant noises don't convey much information.
But, linked together, the sounds can be used to create sophisticated words and converse in groups about an almost limitless range of subjects.
And birds may be able to communicate in a similar way, scientists say, because they have been observed turning nonsense noises into meaningful phrases.
This is the first time animals have been heard to combine distinct and co-dependent calls to develop a language, the team said.
Scientists at universities in Switzerland, the UK and Australia studied the calls of chestnut-crowned babblers (pictured) and found all their calls could be broken down into combinations of two distinct and deliberate noises
Researchers at universities in Zurich, Exeter, Warwick and Macquarie and New South Wales in Australia studied the calls of the chestnut-crowned babbler.
They found that all its calls could be broken down into two distinct parts arranged in different ways to convey different things.
Adding to past research which noticed the babblers used two tones – at the time labelled A and B – to communicate, the findings confirmed how the animals heard them.
Dr Sabrina Engesser, from the University of Zurich, said: 'Through systematic comparisons we tested which of the elements babblers perceived as equivalent or different sounds.
'In doing so, we were able to confirm that the calls could be broken up into two perceptually distinct sounds that are shared across the calls in different arrangements.
'Furthermore, none of the comprising elements carried the meaning of the calls, confirming the elements are meaningless.'
A study co-author, Exeter's Professor Andy Russell, said what they found was 'reminiscent of the way humans use sounds to form meaningful words'.
For example, in the earlier study, scientists found the birds made