Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 158–162

Evolution of speech and evolution of language

Brief Report

DOI: 10.3758/s13423-016-1130-6

Cite this article as:
de Boer, B. Psychon Bull Rev (2017) 24: 158. doi:10.3758/s13423-016-1130-6


Speech is the physical signal used to convey spoken language. Because of its physical nature, speech is both easier to compare with other species’ behaviors and easier to study in the fossil record than other aspects of language. Here I argue that convergent fossil evidence indicates adaptations for complex vocalizations at least as early as the common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans. Furthermore, I argue that it is unlikely that language evolved separately from speech, but rather that gesture, speech, and song coevolved to provide both a multimodal communication system and a musical system. Moreover, coevolution must also have played a role by allowing both cognitive and anatomical adaptations to language and speech to evolve in parallel. Although such a coevolutionary scenario is complex, it is entirely plausible from a biological point of view.


Evolution of speech Speech production Evolution of language 

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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