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Table of Contents
Vol. 57, No. 2-4, 2000
Issue release date: April – December
Section title: Biology of Communication and Motor Processes
Phonetica 2000;57:205–218
(DOI:10.1159/000028474)

The Phonetic Potential of Nonhuman Vocal Tracts: Comparative Cineradiographic Observations of Vocalizing Animals

Tecumseh Fitch W.
Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University and Program in Speech and Hearing Science (Harvard/MIT), Cambridge, Mass., USA

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Article / Publication Details

First-Page Preview
Abstract of Biology of Communication and Motor Processes

Published online: August 22, 2000
Issue release date: April – December

Number of Print Pages: 14
Number of Figures: 6
Number of Tables: 0

ISSN: 0031-8388 (Print)
eISSN: 1423-0321 (Online)

For additional information: http://www.karger.com/PHO

Abstract

For more than a century it has been noted that the adult human vocal tract differs from that of other mammals, in that the resting position of the larynx is much lower in humans. While animals habitually breathe with the larynx inserted into the nasal cavity, adult humans are unable to do this. This anatomical difference has been cited as an important factor limiting the vocal potential of nonhuman animals, because the low larynx of humans allows a wider range of vocal tract shapes and thus formant patterns than is available to other species. However, it is not clear that the static anatomy of dead animals provides an accurate guide to the phonetic potential of the living animal’s vocal tract. Here I present X-ray video observations of four mammal species (dogs Canis familiaris, goats Capra hircus, pigs Sus scrofa and cotton-top tamarins Sagunius oedipus). In all four species, the larynx was lowered from the nasopharynx, and the velum was closed, during loud calls. In dogs this temporary lowering was particularly pronounced. Although preliminary, these results suggest that the nonhuman vocal tract is more flexible than previously supposed, and that static postmortem anatomy provides an incomplete guide to the phonetic potential of nonhuman animals. The implications of these findings for theories of speech evolution are discussed.

© 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel


Article / Publication Details

First-Page Preview
Abstract of Biology of Communication and Motor Processes

Published online: August 22, 2000
Issue release date: April – December

Number of Print Pages: 14
Number of Figures: 6
Number of Tables: 0

ISSN: 0031-8388 (Print)
eISSN: 1423-0321 (Online)

For additional information: http://www.karger.com/PHO


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Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in government regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
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