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Evolution of speech from first principles, part 1: From animal vocalizations to human speech

Time: Fri 2021-11-12 15.15

Location: Fantum

Participating: Axel G. Ekström

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The evolution of human speech and language is, perhaps more than any other field of research, regularly subject to abstract and unfalsifiable theorizing. How should we encourage researchers to proceed? Here, I argue: from as close to nature as possible. Starting from biology, I review research from animal communication, speech apparatus anatomy and physiology, and comparative neuroscience. I attempt to trace the evolutionary trajectory from the calls of non-human primates to the varied and voluntary, generative vocalizations that characterize speech in Homo sapiens. I encourage the development of an integrative first-principles account of speech evolution, rooted in principles of the natural world.