Cognition, Vol. 2, No. 1 - download pdf or read online

By J. Mehler & T. G. Bever (Editors)

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The only function for which the adult human supralaryngeal vocal tract appears to be better adapted is speech production. Understanding the anatomical basis of human speech requires that we briefly review the source-filter theory of speech production (Chiba and Kajiyama, 1958; Fant, 1960). Human speech is the result of a source, or sources, of acoustic energy being filtered On the evolution oj’language: A unified view 63 by the supralaryngeal vocal tract. For voiced sounds, that is, sounds like the English vowels, the source of energy is the periodic sequence of puffs of air that pass through the larynx as the vocal cords (folds) rapidly open and shut.

Heavy NP Shzjii (discussed in Section 4) he asked the girl with the bright blouse to leave + he asked to leave the girl with the bright blouse All of these transformations hang constituents out on right branches. They all may simplify the sentence in terms of principles like Right Association and Closure, for constituents internal to a sentence are made ‘lighter’, permitting closure to occur in general earlier. The relation of Heavy NP Shift to Right Association was discussed earlier. Note, however, that blind application of these rules does not in every case lead to a perceptually simpler sentence.

It, moreover, appears to point to a coherent evolutionary process that relates the communications systems of other animals to human language. It most importantly points out a number of questions that can be resolved through controlled experiments and careful observations. I have drawn on a number of seemingly disparate ethological, anatomical, psychological and anthropological sources because I think that it is obvious that there is no single factor that is, in itself, responsible for the evolution of human language.

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Cognition, Vol. 2, No. 1 by J. Mehler & T. G. Bever (Editors)

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