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17:30 - 19:00 11 October 2012

An archaeologist's hunt for the origins of speech


South Wing Council Room | Wilkins Building (link Map)
Gower St | London | WC1E 6BT | United Kingdom

Open to: Academic | Alumni | Public | Student
Admission: ffree of charge
Ticketing: Open

Speaker information

Dr. James Steele, UCL Institute of Archaelology

In the 1970s two new bodies of research emerged based on conjectures about the evolution of spoken language. One conjecture is that the human bias, at the population level, to right-handedness is a unique trait of our species, which evolved as a correlate of specialization for language processing in the left cerebral hemisphere. Another conjecture is that the human vocal tract has unique morphological traits that have evolved to permit articulation of a greater range of speech sounds.

These two quite separate conjectures have led archaeologists and physical anthropologists to investigate fossil bones and early tools, searching for evidence of the emergence of a population bias towards right-handedness and of the appearance of distinctively human features of the vocal tract. I will introduce some of the evidence that has been found, and also summarise some of the observations that call into question the basis of the original conjectures.


Mark Huckvale
020 7679 4087 | m.huckvale@ucl.ac.uk


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