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date: 21 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the biological and cultural evolution of speech. It presents fossil and comparative evidence about how anatomical structures may have adapted to speech over evolutionary time and how this can help estimate when speech evolved. It also discusses how cultural transmission shapes systems of speech sounds, and how this is important to understand the biological evolution of cognitive adaptations to learning and using speech. It discusses experimental techniques to investigate cultural evolution of speech in a laboratory setting. From the evidence presented, it is likely that anatomical adaptations to complex vocal communication are at least as old as the latest common ancestor with Neanderthals (c 400 000 years ago), that cognitive adaptations are probably primary (and therefore even older than this), that cultural evolution is very important in shaping (systems of) speech sounds, and that therefore the evolution of speech was a complex co-evolution between anatomy, cognition, and culture.

Keywords: evolution of language, emergence of speech, vocal tract, combinatorial structure, iconicity, air sacs

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