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Have you ever had this experience?  You come upon a word that you had never seen before.  You look up its definition.  Then, you see and hear this word (that you had never seen before) everywhere!

For me, my “new words” are the research disciplines of interest to IAPR.  Since I began working for IAPR in 2004, I have increasingly noticed news items and products related to pattern recognition and associated disciplines.  In this article, I will touch on three examples of natural language pattern recognition that I came upon in news magazines and on the radio.

The Origins of Human Laughter

When my daughters were young, I remember taking them to the Bronx Zoo and seeing a baby ape wearing a diaper and walking around just like any other toddler.  I can also picture many images of laughing chimpanzees, slapping their heads and doubling over in what I thought of as very human ways.  More accurately, it seems, human laughter should be viewed as having evolved from our nonhuman primate ancestry. 

Through acoustic and phylogenetic analyses of tickling-induced vocalizations, Dr. Marina Davila-Ross (University of Portsmouth, U.K., and University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany), Dr. Michael J. Owren (Georgia State University, USA), and Prof. Dr. Elke Zimmermann (University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany) present strong evidence that human laughter is part of an evolutionary chain dating back more than 16 million years.

The Language of a Baby’s Cry

Unlike the research on the roots of human laughter discussed above, this research on the language of a baby’s cry only takes us as far back as the womb. 

Birgit Mampe (University of Würzburg, Germany),  Prof. Dr. Angela D. Friederici (Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany), Dr. Anne Christophe (Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistiques at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France), and Prof. Dr. Kathleen Wermke (Lead Researcher, University of Würzburg, Germany) compared cries of French and German newborns.  The melody contour and intonation of the cries mimicked that of the mother tongues, showing that show that language process is involved. 

The Message in Your Dog’s Bark

I can appreciate the importance of newborns communicating with their caregivers in their native tongues.  And, handheld language translators have been helping tourists and students for years.  Now there is similar help for pet owners:  a spoken “translation” of their dog’s bark. 

The Bowlingual was invented in 2002 by Keita Satoh (then President of Takara Toys, Japan), Dr. Matsumi Suzuki (Japanese Acoustic Lab), and Dr. Norio Kogure (Kogure Veterinary Hospital).  They analyzed dog voiceprints and categorized them into six emotions:  happy, sad, frustrated, on guard, assertive, and needy.  The database they created enabled them to match the voiceprint of a new bark and attribute the corresponding emotion.  The Bowlingual consists of a transmitter that is worn on the dog’s collar and a handheld receiver that is carried by the owner.  When a bark is transmitted it is matched to the stored database of bark characteristics and the translation is displayed on the handheld receiver.

In 2009, the Bowlingual Voice (Bowlingual Version 2) was released.  Instead of just displaying the dog’s message, this version will speak it—in a Japanese woman’s voice only, at present.


Pattern Recognition in the Media:  Language









by Linda J. O’Gorman (USA)

Linda O’Gorman has served as IAPR Secretariat and Layout Editor for the IAPR Newsletter since 2004.  This is the first article in her series devoted to pattern recognition topics appearing in the popular media.

~Alexandra Branzan Albu, ed.

For more information:


The Origins of Human Laughter


Marina Davila Ross, Michael J Owren, Elke Zimmermann, “Reconstructing the Evolution of Laughter in Great Apes and Humans,” Current Biology - 14 July 2009 (Volume 19, Issue 13, pp. 1106-1111)


Article Addendum: 

Marina Davila Ross, Michael J Owren, and Elke Zimmermann, “The evolution of laughter in great apes and humans,” Communicative & Integrative Biology – March/April (Volume 3, Issue 2)



The Language of a Baby’s Cry


Birgit Mampe, Angela D. Friederici, Anne Christophe, Kathleen Wermke, “Newborns' Cry Melody Is Shaped by Their Native Language,” Current Biology - 15 December 2009 (Volume 19, Issue 23, pp. 1994-1997)



The Message in Your Dog’s Bark


The Bowlingual was one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2002.



The Origins of Human Laughter

The Week Magazine, June 26, 2009


The Language of a Baby’s Cry

The Week Magazine, November 27, 2009


The Message in Your Dog’s Bark

National Public Radio, “Wait, wait, don’t tell me: the oddly informative news quiz”, July 25, 2009