Tracing the Origins of Speech
Jeffrey T. Laitman, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
The ability for speech is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of our species. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a world without speech. Yet this quintessential human trait was probably not present as we know it in our early ancestors.
When, then, did early hominids cross some threshold leaving behind the limitations of ape-like grunts and growls for the variety of sounds in human speech?
This is a question that has long intrigued, and yet puzzled, scholars from enlightenment philosophes to modern paleoneurologists (those who study fossil brains.) Approaches that examine the evolution of the vocal tract of our ancestors are providing clues to solving this mystery. With new evidence from both the fossil human record, and advances in understanding vocal tract anatomy, function and neural development, we are gaining insight into the speech capabilities of our ancestors –from the earliest australopiths to close relatives such as Neanderthals –and reconstructing how changes occurred.
Saturday, October 9 @ 1:00 pm
The Field Museum | Chicago, IL
Free with museum admission.
Generous support provided by The Segal Family Foundation.