Sophie Ma, of Balclutha Primary School, asks :-

Why can we talk?

Kon Kuiper, a linguist at the University of Canterbury, responded.

The simple answer is that human beings have a brain in which language develops when babies and small children hear people talking.

But it's not just the brain. We also have specialised equipment for talking. We have a voice box that has two vibrating 'cords' in it that make a sound when air moves between them. Above that, the throat and mouth form a tube in which the sound from the voice box resonates like sound in a trumpet. Changing the shape of the tube by lowering your jaw or rounding your lips changes the sound. We can also use the tongue and lips to obstruct the air coming out and so make various kinds of popping and fizzing sounds like the p sound and the s sound.

Talking is also social. We live in societies in which other people talk and we learn how to take turns in talking to each other. We learn to say 'please' and 'thank you'.

Many people now think that much of talking happens because humans are biologically designed to talk. It is learned and done effortlessly like walking. But no matter how hard we try we cannot sing exactly the way some birds do. That is what they are biologically designed to do.