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Bibliography – The Science – Find out why only humans can speak

Bibliography - The Science - Find out why only humans can speak

They consider that our ancestors actually had fiery conversations 50-100 thousand years ago. Some people believe that pointing, grunting, and murmuring were long ago replaced by more complex speech, which, moreover, developed relatively quickly.

But scientists have so far offered only one explanation for how we are able to pronounce words clearly: We are the only primates that can speak because about 200,000 years ago the larynx of Homo sapiens began descending and forming a cavity behind the tongue, because from this much we were able to play a wide range of sounds.

The larynx is a hollow tube in the throat, and it is not only an important organ for swallowing (it prevents food or saliva from entering the airways), but it is also the place where the vocal cords come from. No one disputes the acoustic significance of the lower larynx, but there is only a small snag. Red deer and fallow deer can clear their throats, and do so in the fall, during deer estrus, but not even the strange, unarticulated barks and deep throaty sounds of speech can be called the most bona fide.

It seems that the position of the larynx alone cannot explain why we are able to produce a wide variety of speech sounds.

Now, however, there has been significant progress in understanding the evolution of speech.

An international research team led by Taxi Nisimura at Kyoto University’s Research Institute for the Evolution of Human Behavior examined the larynx (“voice box”) of 43 species of primates and They made a surprising discoveryThe increasingly complex sound production and development of spoken language are made possible by the anatomically simpler larynx.

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Is less better?

It turns out that all primates except us have a special kind With acoustic membrane (voice box), With tiny, tape-like extensions of the vocal cords that make their own sounds. However, the man lost his vocal cords during his turbulent development, and as a result

Without it, we can easily produce more resonant sounds and the high pitch necessary for speech.

On the other hand, the membranes of primates are only capable of making loud, screech-like sounds that are not articulated, unstable, and chaotic. Although we also know something similar, but not when we talk, but for example when we cry, scream or shout. In the absence of a membrane, our vocal production became more regular, which was probably one of the prerequisites for the development of human speech.

According to the researchers, laryngeal simplification may have already begun at the time of one of the Neanderthals, Australopithecus, 3.85 million years ago, but then we were still millions of years away from our delightful friendly chats. Our ancestors started getting really smart about 500,000 years ago, with the taming of fire and the arrival of hot food. In order to write, the brain first had to “grow up”, and perhaps the anatomical simplification of the larynx only accelerated the process of development.

(Cover Image: Shutterstock)

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