How lip smacking became speech?

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Simon Fraser University]On: 15 November 2014, At: 03:42Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Laterality: Asymmetries of Body,Brain and CognitionPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/plat20

    How lip smacking becamespeech?William D. Hopkins a ba Yerkes National Primate Research Centre , Atlantab Agnes Scott College , Decatur, GA, USAPublished online: 03 Nov 2010.

    To cite this article: William D. Hopkins (2010) How lip smacking became speech?,Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, 15:6, 663-666, DOI:10.1080/1357650X.2010.492200

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1357650X.2010.492200

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  • Book review: How lip smacking became speech?

    MacNeilage, P. F. (2008). The origins of speech. Oxford, UK: Oxford

    University Press. Price: $39.95. 352 pp. ISBN: 978-0-19-923650-3

    There is perhaps no other ability that distinguishes human and non-human

    animals like language and speech. I use the descriptives language and

    speech because they are often used synonymously, but in point of fact they

    are discernable constructs. Speech is a spoken form of language, but

    obviously it is well recognised that other non-speech forms of language

    exist. In The Origins of Speech Peter MacNeilage offers an engaging account

    of how humans develop and have evolved the capacity for not just language

    but specifically speech. While many have written on the topic of language

    evolution, MacNeilage offers a specific account for the origin of speech and

    the motor, cognitive, and neurological systems that underlie this unique form

    of communication.The foundations of the many arguments offered by MacNeilage are

    evolutionary and, when it comes to speech, the historical and contemporary

    views are largely rooted in modern linguistic theory, particularly the ideas

    and writings of Noam Chomsky and others (see Pinker, 1994, for review).

    There could be no more diametrically opposed positions. The Chomskian

    perspective argues for the language acquisition device that is genetically

    rooted in the human (and only the human) brain. In other words, there was

    and is a decidedly discontinuous process in the evolution of speech compared

    to vocal communication systems of non-human animals. MacNeilage takes

    the views of Chomsky and other modern linguists head-on in a very

    methodical way, and with a theoretical bent that is both engaging and

    informative.

    The book begins by presenting the problem of speech and language

    within the context of Lashleys serial order problem. MacNeilage then sets

    out the aim of the book by invoking the four principal questions that

    scientists who study communication address, as outlined by Tinbergen,

    including (1) the Mechanistic: How does it work?; (2) Function: What

    does it do for the organism?; (3) Ontogenetic: How does it get that way in

    development?; and (4) Phylogenetic: How did it get that way in

    evolution? (see also Hauser & Konishi, 1999).

    From this four-principle perspective, the early sections of the book

    describe speech in modern humans in terms of the phonology, syntax, and

    LATERALITY, 2010, 15 (6), 663666

    # 2010 The Authorhttp://www.psypress.com/laterality DOI: 10.1080/1357650X.2010.492200

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  • pragmatics of speech. This serves as a backdrop for a description of the

    literature on the development of speech. This section of the book is quite

    theoretically and empirically dense, with a rich body of cross-cultural,

    cross-sectional, and longitudinal studies that largely show the uniformity in

    different dimensions of speech and language development. Within this

    context, the reader is also introduced to MacNeilages own model of speechdevelopment or the frame-content (FC) theory. In this theoretical frame-

    work, the openclose oscillation of the mandible represents two phases ofspeech that are subject to continual articulatory modulation. The cycle

    represents the syllable (frame) and the openclose movements represent thesegments (or content), notably vowels and consonants. According to

    MacNeilage the foundation for speech, notably phonation, are rooted in

    the lip-smacking facial expressions of many monkey species, which are

    often associated with social grooming, a hygienic but primary and socialfunction of primates that Dunbar (1996) has suggested is the non-verbal

    equivalent of gossip. In my view, the merging of Dunbars view of the role

    of social system in language and brain evolution with the motor theory of

    speech proposed by MacNeilage offers a unique perspective. Indeed, for

    those of us who study non-human primates, notably chimpanzees, one

    cannot help but notice the link between hand movements and oro-facial

    motor movements as manifested during grooming (Hopkins, Russell,

    Remkus, Freeman, & Schapiro, 2007), and I believe the argument offeredby MacNeilage is compelling.

    The central chapters of the book introduce the reader to the

    neurological adaptations that must have been necessary for the evolution

    of modern speech. In particular, MacNeilage emphasises the importance

    of supplementary motor cortex, notably the dorsal premotor cortex and

    ventral premotor cortex, in the control of extrinsically cued actions.

    Specifically, MacNeilage emphasises the work of many who have shown

    the importance of these brain regions in programming and executingsequences of learned motor actions. Several sections of these chapters are

    developed to the topic of mirror neurons and their discovery in the

    ventral premotor regions, and lateralisation of speech and its origins in

    primates. For MacNeilage the left hemisphere is specialised for motor

    skill, and this claim is consistent with its role in speech in humans but

    has antecedents throughout the animal kingdom. For instance, leftward

    asymmetries in toads and other species distantly related in vocal

    communication are cited as examples of a fundamental and intrinsicbias for the left hemisphere to control motor actions (Rogers & Andrew,

    2002). For primates, MacNeilage presents his postural origin (PO) view of

    handedness, which complements his FO theory of speech. The PO theory

    posits that arboreal primates exhibit complementary functions, with the

    right hand providing postural support while the left hand is involved in

    664 BOOK REVIEW

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  • ballistic actions. According to PO theory, as primates adapted to

    terrestrial habitats the left hand became the support hand while the right

    hand became specialised for fine motor action and manipulation. We

    now know that there is very good evidence of population-level right-

    handedness for handedness tasks in a variety of primate species, and some

    of these results are consistent with the PO theory (Hopkins, 2007).The later chapters of the book are perhaps the most heuristically and

    theoretically interesting because MacNeilage takes on several historical and

    contemporary issues of language evolution. Notably, one persistent issue in

    the anthropological literature is the question of whether speech evolved

    from an inherent gestural system (the gestural origins hypothesis) or

    whether speech evolved independently of gestures. For linguists, the absence

    of speech in non-human animals, the inability to exhibit voluntary control

    of vocal signals, and the lack of semantic or grammatical systems in animalvocal communication systems all reinforced the discontinuity perspective of

    language and speech offered by Chomsky and others. In contrast, it is

    undeniable that humans gesture while they speak, children typically develop

    pointing and manual gestures prior to the development of speech, and, in

    the case of deaf individuals, they can acquire non-speech language systems

    such as American Sign Language. These data have always been used to

    argue for a gestural origins theory. MacNeilage presents a very balanced

    view of these arguments and actually suggests, as others have, that perhapsgesture and speech evolution are not separable and perhaps co-evolved

    rather than evolving as separate systems (McNeil, 1992). Related to the

    topic of sign language, MacNeilage also discusses the developmental

    foundation of speech and sign language as it relates to babbling. In

    particular, MacNeilage takes issue with claims that the onset, function, and

    form of babbling in deaf children are similar to typically developing

    speaking children, and he offers some limitations and caveats to these

    arguments.Lastly, another interesting point of discussion by MacNeilage in the

    context of language origins is the neurological literature on brain regions

    involved in language processing in deaf compared to hearing individuals.

    Based on data from deaf individuals, it has been suggested that language

    lateralisation represents an (a)modal system in that the same brain regions

    are involved in language processing for both signed and spoken commu-

    nication systems. Certainly there are some commonalities, but MacNeilage

    rightly points out that there are also significant differences and scientistsshould therefore be cautious about how these results are interpreted as they

    relate to theories of language origin.

    Overall, this is a well-written, informative book on the development and

    evolution of speech. With appropriate deference, MacNeilage presents in

    fairly broad strokes a theory on the origin of speech, but recognises that

    BOOK REVIEW 665

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  • many pieces of the puzzle remain a mystery and will only be revealed with

    time and research. Linguists or those with a strong linguistic background

    would be well served by reading this book because it offers a very different

    perspective on the origin of speech. For me, studying the evolutionary

    origins of speech has often seemed like a dead end because many have taken

    such a very narrow view on the topic, and on who and what could be studiedwithin that domain. By offering a strong Darwinian perspective on the

    evolution of speech, MacNeilage has, if nothing else, provided a framework

    for scientists, other than linguists, to offer insights into the origin of speech.

    WILLIAM D. HOPKINS

    Yerkes National Primate Research Centre, Atlanta, and

    Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA, USA

    REFERENCES

    Dunbar, R. I. M. (1996). Grooming, gossip, and the evolution of language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard

    University Press.

    Hauser, M. D., & Konishi. (1999). The design of animal communication. Cambridge, MA: MIT

    Press.

    Hopkins, W. D. (Ed.). (2007). Evolution of hemispheric specialization in primates (Vol. 5). Oxford,

    UK: Elsevier.

    Hopkins, W. D., Russell, J. L., Remkus, M., Freeman, H., & Schapiro, S. J. (2007). Handedness and

    grooming in Pan troglodytes: Comparative analysis between findings in captive and wild

    chimpanzees. International Journal of Primatology, 28, 13151326.McNeil, D. (1992). Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago: University of

    Chicago Press.

    Pinker, S. (1994). The language instinct: How the mind creates language. New York: W. Morrow &

    Co.

    Rogers, L. J., & Andrew, J. R. (2002). Comparative vertebrate lateralization. Cambridge, UK:

    Cambridge University Press.

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