Evolution of Speech

Organisers: Tecumseh Fitch, Bart de Boer, Takeshi Nishimura, Hannah Little

Monday, 21st March, 2016, New Orleans

See below for Schedule

A traditional focus in studies of language evolution is the human vocal tract and its unusual descended larynx. For decades, following the seminal work of Philip Lieberman and colleagues, this feature of our species has been singled out as particularly relevant for the evolution of spoken language. Vocal anatomy has also played a prominent role in attempts to discern the linguistic abilities of extinct hominin ancestors. However, a variety of new data have surfaced, mostly based on analyses of living animals and their vocal production apparatus and abilities that suggest that the uniqueness and importance of human vocal anatomy has been over-stated. This workshop would involve an international roster of speakers who have worked on this issue, from multiple viewpoints, and will debate the relevance of these new data for traditional interpretations of the evolution of speech. Other, mostly neglected, aspects of vocal anatomy (such as the loss, in humans, of laryngeal air sacs) will also be discussed.


Monday, 21st March, 2016

09:00    Introduction: "Primate speech abilities revisited"

            Tecumseh Fitch

10:00    "Proto-consonants were information-dense and as adaptive as proto-vowels"

            Adriano R. Lameira, Raquel Vicente, António Alexandre, Marie-Clarie Pagano, Madeleine E. Hardus, Gail Campbell-Smith, Cheryl Knott, Serge Wich

10:50   Coffee Break (25 mins)

11:15    "Vocal inhibition enhances to decouple the vocalizations from emotion"

            Hiroki Koda, Takumi Kunieda, Takeshi Nishimura

11:40    "Multimodal analysis of the learned vocal repertoire of a human-fostered gorilla"

            Marcus Perlman and Drew H. Abney

12:40    "Vocal Tract Evolution: Open Issues"

            Bart de Boer

13:00   Final Discussion (15 mins)

13:15   End