Loading...

Origins of Human Language: Continuities and Discontinuities with Nonhuman Primates

by Louis-Jean Boë (Volume editor) Joël Fagot (Volume editor) Pascal Perrier (Volume editor) Jean-Luc Schwartz (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 368 Pages
Open Access

Summary

This book proposes a detailed picture of the continuities and ruptures between communication in primates and language in humans. It explores a diversity of perspectives on the origins of language, including a fine description of vocal communication in animals, mainly in monkeys and apes, but also in birds, the study of vocal tract anatomy and cortical control of the vocal productions in monkeys and apes, the description of combinatory structures and their social and communicative value, and the exploration of the cognitive environment in which language may have emerged from nonhuman primate vocal or gestural communication.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction to “Origins of Human Language: Continuities and Discontinuities with Nonhuman Primates” (Louis-Jean Boë / Joël Fagot / Pascal Perrier / Jean-Luc Schwartz)
  • Vocal Repertoire of Captive Guinea Baboons (Papio papio) (Caralyn Kemp / Arnaud Rey / Thierry Legou / Louis-Jean Boë, Frédéric Berthommier / Yannick Becker / Joël Fagot)
  • What’s up with Wahoo? Exploring Baboon Vocalizations with Speech Science Techniques (Louis-Jean Boë / Thomas R. Sawallis / Jöel Fagot / Frédéric Berthommier)
  • Origins of Human Consonants and Vowels: Articulatory Continuities with Great Apes (Adriano R. Lameira)
  • Comparative Anatomy of the Baboon and Human Vocal Tracts: Renewal of Methods, Data, and Hypotheses (Frédéric Berthommier / Louis-Jean Boë / Adrien Meguerditchian / Thomas R. Sawallis / Guillaume Captier)
  • Evolution of the Laryngeal Motor Cortex for Speech Production (Veena Kumar / Kristina Simonyan)
  • Motor and Communicative Correlates of the Inferior Frontal Gyrus (Broca’s Area) in Chimpanzees (William D. Hopkins)
  • From Animal Communication to Linguistics and Back: Insight from Combinatorial Abilities in Monkeys and Birds (Camille Coye / Simon Townsend / Alban Lemasson)
  • Primate Roots of Speech and Language (Klaus Zuberbühler)
  • What Gestures of Nonhuman Primates Can (and Cannot) Tell Us about Language Evolution (Katja Liebal)
  • Dendrophilia and the Evolution of Syntax (W Tecumseh Fitch)
  • Comparing Human and Nonhuman Animal Performance on Domain-General Functions: Towards a Multiple Bottleneck Scenario of Language Evolution (Joël Fagot / Raphaëlle Malassis / Tiphaine Medam / Marie Montant)
  • Reihenübersicht

Louis-Jean Boë / Joël Fagot / Pascal Perrier / Jean-Luc Schwartz ( eds.)

Origins of Human Language: Continuities and Discontinuities with Nonhuman Primates

About the editors

Louis-Jean Boë, Pascal Perrier and Jean-Luc Schwartz are speech scientists in GIPSA-lab, Université Grenoble Alpes & CNRS, France. Joël Fagot is a primatologist specialist of animal cognition in Aix-Marseille University, France.

About the book

This book proposes a detailed picture of the continuities and ruptures between communication in primates and language in humans. It explores a diversity of perspectives on the origins of language, including a fine description of vocal communication in animals, mainly in monkeys and apes, but also in birds, the study of vocal tract anatomy and cortical control of the vocal productions in monkeys and apes, the description of combinatory structures and their social and communicative value, and the exploration of the cognitive environment in which language may have emerged from nonhuman primate vocal or gestural communication.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Contents

Editors: Louis-Jean Boë, Joël Fagot, Pascal Perrier, Jean-Luc Schwartz

Introduction to “Origins of Human Language: Continuities and Discontinuities with Nonhuman Primates

Caralyn Kemp, Arnaud Rey, Thierry Legou, Louis-Jean Boë, Frédéric Berthommier, Yannick Becker and Joël Fagot

Vocal Repertoire of Captive Guinea Baboons (Papio papio)

Louis-Jean Boë, Thomas R. Sawallis, Jöel Fagot and Frédéric Berthommier

What’s up with Wahoo? Exploring Baboon Vocalizations with Speech Science Techniques

Adriano R. Lameira

Origins of Human Consonants and Vowels: Articulatory Continuities with Great Apes

Frédéric Berthommier, Louis-Jean Boë, Adrien Meguerditchian, Thomas R. Sawallis and Guillaume Captier

Comparative Anatomy of the Baboon and Human Vocal Tracts: Renewal of Methods, Data, and Hypotheses

Veena Kumar and Kristina Simonyan

Evolution of the Laryngeal Motor Cortex for Speech Production

William D. Hopkins

Motor and Communicative Correlates of the Inferior Frontal Gyrus (Broca’s Area) in Chimpanzees

Camille Coye, Simon Townsend and Alban Lemasson

From Animal Communication to Linguistics and Back: Insight from Combinatorial Abilities in Monkeys and Birds

Klaus Zuberbühler

Primate Roots of Speech and Language←5 | 6→

Katja Liebal

What Gestures of Nonhuman Primates Can (and Cannot) Tell Us about Language Evolution

W Tecumseh Fitch

Dendrophilia and the Evolution of Syntax

Joël Fagot, Raphaëlle Malassis, Tiphaine Medam and Marie Montant

Comparing Human and Nonhuman Animal Performance on Domain-General Functions: Towards a Multiple Bottleneck Scenario of Language Evolution←6 | 7→

Editors: Louis-Jean Boë, Joël Fagot, Pascal Perrier, Jean-Luc Schwartz

Introduction to “Origins of Human Language: Continuities and Discontinuities with Nonhuman Primates

There have been a number of contributions in the past years about language origins from various points of view. In this book, we intend to contribute to establish a state-of-the-art of the knowledge about the continuities and ruptures between communication in primates and language in humans. A major strength of the present book is to explore a diversity of perspectives on the origins of language, including the description of vocal communication in animals, mainly in monkeys and apes, but also in birds, the study of vocal tract anatomy and cortical control of the vocal productions in monkeys and apes, the description of combinatory structures and their social and communicative value, and the exploration of the cognitive environment in which language may have emerged from nonhuman primate vocal or gestural communication. Interestingly, this portrait emerges from a situation in which one long-standing hypothesis stating that a low larynx position was a prerequisite for the emergence of speech has been clearly discarded. Indeed, some contributors of this book have just participated to two papers showing that the monkey vocal tract was “speech ready” (Boë et al., 2017; Fitch et al, 2016). This renders the debates clearer, in that neurocognitive and social evolutions now unequivocally appear as the major potential sources of evolution towards language. The series of eleven chapters provides a rather complete portrait and elaboration on the facts, proposals, arguments and claims that pave the science way from animal communication to human language.

The book begins by a descriptive analysis of baboon calls by Caralyn Kemp, Arnaud Rey, Thierry Legou, Louis-Jean Boë, Frédéric Berthommier, Yannick Becker and Joël Fagot. In their study of the “Vocal Repertoire of Captive Guinea Baboons (Papio papio)”, the authors provide ethograms and a prototypical description of twelve kinds of vocalizations emerging←7 | 8→ from the analysis of individual calls and call sequences in the vocal repertoire of a group of captive Guinea baboons. Typical sound examples of each type of vocalization are also provided in Supplementary Materials. This study will be of substantial value for students of primate vocalizations. More importantly in the context of the present book, it provides a concrete and significant example of the “phonetic” description of the vocal communication system in nonhuman primates, which contributes to the documentation of the precursors of human speech possibly enlightening the conditions of its emergence. Of importance here is the fact that exploitation of variations in various dimensions of the vocalizations appears as a possible way to increase the efficiency of communication without expanding the vocabulary of available units. Interestingly, the large co-variations between formants and fundamental frequency also suggest a non-independent mastery of vocal source and vocal tract configuration in baboons’ vocalizations.

The next chapter is in continuity with the previous one, providing a zoom on one of the twelve baboon vocalizations. Louis-Jean Boë, Thomas R. Sawallis, Jöel Fagot and Frédéric Berthommier question “What’s up with Wahoo? Exploring Baboon Vocalizations with Speech Science Techniques”. Focusing on the “wahoo” vocalization, they analyze a corpus of 69 utterances of wahoo calls coming from the corpus of the previous chapter. Careful spectral analysis of these utterances provides major spectral peaks separately for the three proto-components {w}, {a} and {hoo}. These peaks are compared with those of a [wa.u] phonetic sequence uttered by a human speaker in various phonatory modes. In parallel, the authors propose an articulatory analysis of a film presenting a baboon uttering a wahoo vocalization. Altogether, they claim that these combined acoustic and articulatory analyses converge towards the assumption that baboon “wahoo” is rather similar to a human phonetic sequence that can be transcribed as [wa.u], with a first syllable chaining a back rounded semi-consonant /w/ and a front open /a/ produced in an ingressive way, and a back rounded /u/ produced in an egressive way.

The exploration of vocalizations in nonhuman primates continues with Adriano R. Lameira proposing a view on “Origins of vowels and consonants: Articulatory continuities with nonhuman great apes”. From his study of the call repertoire of orangutans, the author introduces the idea that there could exist an articulatory homology between voiceless calls and←8 | 9→ human consonants on the one hand, and between voiced calls and human vowels on the other hand. Among the set of voiceless calls, Lameira focuses on whistles and shows clear learning abilities in captive orangutans, which relates to a number of reports of learning processes in other great apes. Concerning voiced calls, Lameira displays kinds of “babbling” vocalizations with rhythmic jaw movements similar to the ones displayed by infants, together with imitation games in which a captive orangutan is able to modify fundamental frequency in response to modulations of a human tutor. These plastic voiceless and voiced vocalizations could provide in the author’s view “proto-consonants and proto-vowels” in a kind of language precursor in a human ancestor.

Importantly, vocalizations in nonhuman primates are constrained by the anatomy of the orofacial system. This is at the core of the contribution by Frédéric Berthommier, Louis-Jean Boë, Adrien Meguerditchian, Thomas R. Sawallis and Guillaume Captier dealing with “Comparative Anatomy of the Baboon and Human Vocal Tracts: Renewal of Methods, Data, and Hypotheses”. This comparative anatomy aggregates a series of invaluable data enabling to qualitatively and quantitatively compare vocal tracts in baboons and humans. These data include (1) a dissection of two adult Papio papio heads, enabling detailed description of the vocal tract, the larynx and the tongue musculature, (2) fifty-six 3D MRI scans of Papio anubis baboons from 2 years to adulthood enabling authors to elaborate precise vocal tract biometry, (3) radiographic data for 127 human children from 3 to 7.5 years providing reference human biometry for comparison with the preceding set of Baboon data. This enables authors to claim that the hyoid bone would be placed one vertebra lower in human infants than in adult baboons – and also one additional vertebra lower in male human adults. The increase in the pharyngeal part of the vocal tract in humans would be accompanied by compensatory facial shortening, thus maintaining the vocal tract length similar in both species. On the basis of these data authors address the issue of how exaptation of articulatory patterns in feeding could have contributed to structure the articulation of speech sounds.

Vocalizations in nonhuman primates also depend of course a lot on the cortical and sub-cortical networks available for vocal and orofacial control. The question of cortical control is explored in the next two chapters. Firstly, Veena Kumar and Kristina Simonyan discuss in great detail the “Evolu←9 | 10→tion of the laryngeal motor cortex for speech production”. Their starting point is that, as already discussed in the first chapter by Kemp and coll., laryngeal control seems much more precise and stable in humans. Kumar and Simonyan analyze possible differences in laryngeal cortical control between humans and nonhuman primates. Firstly, they recapitulate several studies from their group leading to the conclusion that, while laryngeal motor control would be localized both in the primary motor cortex and in the premotor cortex in humans, localization would be reduced to the premotor cortex in apes and monkeys. Their hypothesis is that the premotor cortex would be sufficient for basic functions associated to e.g. breathing or physical effort, but the fine control in humans would require the additional involvement of the primary motor cortex. This evolution would be combined with the emergence in humans of direct cortical connections towards the brainstem, while they would be indirect in monkeys. Finally, the cortical network of connections between the laryngeal motor cortex and parietal and temporal regions necessary for learning and control would also be much more developed in humans.

Biographical notes

Louis-Jean Boë (Volume editor) Joël Fagot (Volume editor) Pascal Perrier (Volume editor) Jean-Luc Schwartz (Volume editor)

Louis-Jean Boë, Pascal Perrier and Jean-Luc Schwartz are speech scientists in GIPSA-lab, Université Grenoble Alpes & CNRS, France. Joël Fagot is a primatologist specialist of animal cognition in Aix-Marseille University, France.

Previous

Title: Origins of Human Language: Continuities and Discontinuities with Nonhuman Primates