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Silly Linguistics Magazine Preview – Issue #29

When Alex the African grey parrot was asked “What shape?” about a triangle, he’d correctly
reply “three-cornered”. If Alex was shown a collection of three red, five blue and four green
blocks and asked “What colour five?”, he would correctly say “blue”. Alex even understood the
concept of zero, because when asked “What colour bigger?”, he’d say “none” if the two
objects were the same size. I find it surprising and impressive that a bird can understand us so
well.

Parrots are well known for being good at mimicking human words. In fact, they are so good at repeating human phrases that one can get easily get confused about whether a parrot or a person is talking. For example, Boris the parrot, owned by the Speaker of the UK House of Commons, has surprised train passengers by shouting “Order, Order” and “Lock the doors. Lock the doors”. Passengers have reportedly looked around and even replied in confusion “Who’s shouting lock the doors?”.


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