THE CRADDLE OF LANGUAGE
Similarities between newborn human babies and the early humans regarding the acquisition and development of language.
Have you ever wondered how early humans started tocommunicate; to interact by means of the spoken words? If you have done so, you might find the answer in your child’s attempts to talk with you. Recent researches, carried out by scientists belonging todifferent fields of knowledge (such as biologists, paleontologists, anthropologists and linguists) have found out certain similarities between the Neanderthal, our prehistoric ancestor, and a newbornbaby.
What do they have in common? First of all, their vocal tracts experience some changes during the evolutionary/growing process which involves the lowering of the larynx and the consequentappearance of the pharynx. It is important to know/note that the pharynx works as a resonator for the sounds coming from the vocal folds, so that assures them to be clearly perceived. Then, there is thepostural aspect: babies, as ancient humans did at their time, have a change in their posture when, around their first birthday, they start to walk. This upright erected position and the drop of thelarynx are accompanied by the growth of teeth and the control over the facial muscles, which are another elements taking part in the production of speech. Last, but not least, brain experiences anincrease in its connections among neurons and neurotransmisors that enables humans to perform more and more skilled activities, one of them being language.
Unfortunately, having all the necessary“machinery” does not guarantee the success in the enterprise. We all know about the importance of stimulating babies and, even without noticing, we help them to start their “language engine”. How many timeshave you found yourself talking to a baby, using monosyllabic sounds such like as“da-da” or “ba-ba”? It is no wonder, then, that a child’s first words belong to that kind of sounds. What about...
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