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Vol. 57, No. 2-4, 2000
Issue release date: April–December 2000
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: 8/22/2000

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.


  

Author Contacts

Dr. W. Tecumseh Fitch
Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Harvard University and Program in Speech and Hearing Science (Harvard/MIT), 33 Kirkland Street, Room 982
Cambridge, MA 02138 (USA), Tel. +1 617 496-6575
Fax +1 617 496-8279, E-Mail tec@wjh.harvard.edu

  

Article Information

Received: Received: November 1, 1999
Accepted: February 14, 2000
Number of Print Pages : 14
Number of Figures : 6, Number of Tables : 0, Number of References : 29

  

Publication Details

Phonetica (International Journal of Phonetic Science)
Founded 1957 by E. Zwirner

Vol. 57, No. 2-4, Year 2000 (Cover Date: April-December 2000)

Journal Editor: Klaus Kohler, Kiel
ISSN: 0031–8388 (print), 1423–0321 (Online)

For additional information: http://www.karger.com/journals/pho


Article / Publication Details

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

Published online: 8/22/2000

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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