Human Evolution

, Volume 3, Issue 1–2, pp 3–18 | Cite as

On human speech, syntax, and language

  • P. Lieberman


The evolution of human speech and syntax, which appear to be the defining characteristics of modern human beings, is discussed. Speech depends on the morphology of the mouth, tongue, and larynx which yield the human «vocal tract», and neural mechanisms that facilitate the perception of speech and make possible the control of the articulatory gestures that underly speech. The neural mechanisms that underly human syntax may have derived by means of the Darwinian process of preadaption from the structures of the brain that first evolved to facilitate speech motor control. Recent data consistent with this theory are presented; deficits in the comprehension of syntax of normal aged people are correlated with a slowdown in speech rate.

Key words

Speech Syntax Brain Evolution Deficits of Aged People Apnasia 


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Copyright information

© Editrice Il Sedicesimo 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Lieberman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive and Linguistic SciencesBrown UniversityProvidenceU.S.A.

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