Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 21 November 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

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.