No AccessJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ResearchSpecial Issue: Select Papers From the 7th International Conference on Speech Motor Control29 Aug 2019

Evolution of Speech: Anatomy and Control


    This article critically reviews work on the evolution of speech in the context of motor control. It presents a brief introduction to the field of language evolution, of which the study of the evolution of speech is an integral component, and argues why taking the evolutionary perspective is useful. It then proceeds to review different methods of studying evolutionary questions: comparative research, experimental and observational research, and computer and mathematical modeling.


    On the basis of comparative analysis of related species (specifically, other great apes) and on the basis of theoretical results, this article argues that adaptations for speech must have evolved gradually and that it is likely that speech motor control is one of the key aspects that has undergone observable selection related to speech, because, in this area, all the necessary precursors are present in closely related species. This implies that it must be possible to find empirical evidence for how speech evolved in the area of speech motor control. However, such research is only in its infancy at the present moment.

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