Beyond Words - Language Blog

What did the Mouse say to the Evolutionary Biologist?

No, that’s not a set-up for a punchline.

The NYT reported today that scientists at the Max Planck Institute’s Department of Genetics have engineered mice with the human language gene, FOXP2.

While the altered mice did not immediately begin talking in complete sentences, scientists noted that their whistling sounds were markedly different than those of non-altered mice.

Incidentally, it was 80 years ago this week that Mickey, the 20th century’s most famous talking mouse, uttered his first words in the cartoon short The Karnival Kid. It should be noted that in his first on-screen appearance (1928’s Steamboat Willie), Mickey also communicated entirely through whistling. Makes you wonder what news will come next from the Max Planck Institute, doesn’t it?