Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

The Primal Voice

I am sure many of us are familiar with that series of images depicting the evolution of man from Neanderthal to the upright homo sapiens. Interestingly, that posture straightening greatly affected the development of the voice, and consequently, of sound and speech.

The gravitational pull on the body elongated the neck which allowed the larynx (voice box) to drop. And although this new arrangement nullified man’s ability to breathe and eat simultaneously, it provided a much better set up for phonation; a bigger resonating chamber and room for the tongue to move around, essential for precise articulation. The vocal folds and throat were no longer just part of the respiratory system, but could now function as a sound system.

Theories abound around the development of language. Since communication among animals, including man, is based on survival needs, as man’s life became more complex, requiring organization and structure, a more sophisticated language was necessary. As tribes moved out into more open spaces, visual gestures were no longer  sufficient and a verbal method of communication was born. Not only could man then name objects and speak while leaving hands free for manual labor, they could pass on thoughts and ideas of a more abstract nature to future generations, furthering the evolution of social structure.

 It should also be of no surprise that at the same time, the size of the brain increased, especially the cortex, which is critical to language skills, and Brocca’s area, the control center for motor skills for speech.

Our primal voice is still with us, the voice of our emotions, but as we moved beyond the other mammals, we created a whole new way to communicate with each other and the world. Not a small thing.

Speech Science Primer, 3rd ed. Borden, Harris & Raphael. Williams & Wilkin, 1994.

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