Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary
MacNeilage: Evolution of speech

Content first, frame later

John J. Ohala a1
a1 Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720


There is not enough reason to believe that syllables are primary in speech and evolved from the cyclic movements of chewing. There are many differences between chewing and speech and it is equally plausible that what is primary in speech is a succession of auditorily robust modulations of various acoustic parameters (amplitude, periodicity, spectrum, pitch); syllables could have evolved from this.