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A Fetching Lexicon: Language clues come from dog's vocabulary

On a European television broadcast 2 years ago, a border collie named Rico wowed viewers by correctly retrieving items from an array of children's toys at the request of one of his German owners. For example, if instructed to "get the panda," that's what the black-and-white canine brought back.

Julia Fisher, a psychologist at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and two of her colleagues watched Rico's performance with keen interest. In ensuing experiments with the dog, they found that he recognizes the names of about 200 objects and learns names for new items as well as 3-year-old children have been reported to do.

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