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Recent studies of vocal development in infants have shed new light on old questions of how the speech capacity is founded and how it may have evolved in the human species. Vocalizations in the very first months of life appear to provide previously unrecognized clues to the earliest steps in the process by which language came to exist and the processes by which communicative disorders arise. Perhaps the most interesting sounds made by infants are the uniquely human 'protophones' (loosely, 'babbling'), the precursors to speech. Kimbrough Oller argues that these are most profitably interpreted in the context of a new infrastructural model of speech. The model details the manner in which well-formed speech units are constructed, and it reveals how infant vocalizations mature through the first months of life by increasingly adhering to the rules of well-formed speech. He lays out many advantages of an infrastructural approach. Infrastructural interpretation illuminates the significance of vocal stages, and highlights clinically significant deviations, such as the previously unnoticed delays in vocal development that occur in deaf infants. An infrastructural approach also specifies potential paths of evolution for vocal communicative systems. Infrastructural properties and principles of potential communicative systems prove to be organized according to a natural logic--some properties and principles naturally presuppose others. Consequently some paths of evolution are likely while others can be ruled out. An infrastructural analysis also provides a stable basis for comparisons across species, comparisons that show how human vocal capabilities outstrip those of their primate relatives even during the first months of human infancy. The Emergence of the Speech Capacity will challenge psychologists, linguists, speech pathologists, and primatologists alike to rethink the ways they categorize and describe communication. Oller's infraphonological model permits provocative reconceptualizations of the ways infant vocalizations progress systematically toward speech, insightful comparisons between speech and the vocal systems of other species, and fruitful speculations about the origins of language.
This book discusses evolution of the human brain, the origin of speech and language. It covers past and present perspectives on the contentious issue of the acquisition of the language capacity. Divided into two parts, this insightful work covers several characteristics of the human brain including the language-specific network, the size of the human brain, its lateralization of functions and interhemispheric integration, in particular the phonological loop. Aboitiz argues that it is the phonological loop that allowed us to increase our vocal memory capacity and to generate a shared semantic space that gave rise to modern language. The second part examines the neuroanatomy of the monkey brain, vocal learning birds like parrots, emergent evidence of vocal learning capacities in mammals, mirror neurons, and the ecological and social context in which speech evolved in our early ancestors. This book's interdisciplinary topic will appeal to scholars of psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, biology and history.
The central assertion in this volume is that the young child uses general skills, scaffolded by adults, to acquire the complex knowledge of sound patterns and the goal-directed behaviors for communicating ideas through language and producing speech. A child’s acquisition of phonology is seen as a product of her physical and social interaction capacities supported by input from adult models about ambient language sound patterns. Acquisition of phonological knowledge and behavior is a product of this function-oriented complex system. No pre-existing mental knowledge base is necessary for acquiring phonology in this view. Importantly, the child’s diverse abilities are used for many other functions as well as phonological acquisition. Throughout, an evaluation is made of the research on patterns of typical development across languages in monolingual and bilingual children and children with speech impairments affecting various aspects of their developing complex system. Also considered is the status of available theoretical perspectives on phonological acquisition relative to an emergence proposal, and contributions that this perspective could make to more comprehensive modeling of the nature of phonological acquisition are proposed. The volume will be of interest to cognitive psychologists, linguistics, and speech pathologists.
In a stimulating synthesis of cognitive science, anthropology, and linguistics, Philip Lieberman tackles the fundamental questions of human nature: How and why are human beings so different from other species? Can the Darwinian theory of evolution explain human linguistic and cognitive ability? How do our processes of language and thought differ from those of Homo erectus 500,000 years ago, or of the Neanderthals 35,000 years ago? What accounts for human moral sense? Lieberman believes that evolution for rapid, efficient vocal communication forged modern human beings by creating the modern human brain. Earlier hominids lacked fully human speech and syntax, which together allow us to convey complex thoughts rapidly. The author discusses how natural selection acted on older brain mechanisms to produce a structure that can regulate the motor activity necessary for speech and command the complex syntax that enhances the creativity of human language. The unique brain mechanisms underlying human language also enhance human cognitive ability, allowing us to derive abstract concepts and to plan complex activities. These factors are necessary for the development of true altruism and moral behavior. Lieberman supports his argument about the evolution of speech and the human brain by combining the comparative method of Charles Darwin, insights from archaeology and child development, and the results of high-tech research with computerized brain scanning and computer models that can recreate speech sounds made by our ancestors over 100,000 years ago. Uniquely Human will stimulate fresh thought and controversy on the basic question of how we came to be.
As a testament to the scope of Peter MacNeilage’s scholarly work across his 40 year career, contributions to this tribute volume represent a broad spectrum of the seminal issues addressed by phonetic and evolutionary science over a number of years. Approaches to the problems raised by attempting to understand these fundamental topics are illustrated in the broad diversity of paradigms represented in the volume. This diversity in itself is a tribute to the breadth of scholarly questions pursued by MacNeilage across his career. Chapters are arranged around five thematic areas. Two themes, Evolutionary Perspectives on Speech Production and Acquisition of Speech, reflect the major thrust of Peter’s scholarly career over the past 25 years. The other themes are reflective of the broad implications of MacNeilage’s work for scholars in disparate scientific domains. One of the strengths of this volume is the unitary focus of contributions by scientists from diverse scientific backgrounds in considering the applicability of the Frame Content Theory within their own scholarly perspectives. Thematic strands in the volume include: - Evolutionary Perspectives on Speech Production - Neurobiological Aspects of Speech - Perception / Action Relationships - Acquisition of Speech Production Skill - Modeling and Movement - Alternative Perspectives on the Syllable.
This book explores the origin and evolution of speech. The human speech system is in a league of its own in the animal kingdom and its possession dwarfs most other evolutionary achievements. During every second of speech we unconsciously use about 225 distinct muscle actions. To investigate the evolutionary origins of this prodigious ability, Peter MacNeilage draws on work in linguistics, cognitive science, evolutionary biology, and animal behavior. He puts forward a neo-Darwinian account of speech as a process of descent in which ancestral vocal capabilities became modified in response to natural selection pressures for more efficient communication. His proposals include the crucial observation that present-day infants learning to produce speech reveal constraints that were acting on our ancestors as they invented new words long ago. This important and original investigation integrates the latest research on modern speech capabilities, their acquisition, and their neurobiology, including the issues surrounding the cerebral hemispheric specialization for speech. Written in a clear style with minimal recourse to jargon the book will interest a wide range of readers in cognitive, neuro-, and evolutionary science, as well as all those seeking to understand the nature and evolution of speech and human communication.
Combines in one volume "Technics and Language", in which anthropologist Leroi-Gourhan looks at prehistoric technology in relation to the development of cognitive and liguistic faculties, and "Memory and Rhythms", which addresses instinct and intelligence from a sociological viewpoint.

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