(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘speech

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”*…

Sometimes less is more…

Scientists have identified evolutionary modifications in the voice box distinguishing people from other primates that may underpin a capability indispensable to humankind – speaking.

Researchers said… an examination of the voice box, known as the larynx, in 43 species of primates showed that humans differ from apes and monkeys in lacking an anatomical structure called a vocal membrane – small, ribbon-like extensions of the vocal cords.

Humans also lack balloon-like laryngeal structures called air sacs that may help some apes and monkeys produce loud and resonant calls, and avoid hyperventilating, they found.

The loss of these tissues, according to the researchers, resulted in a stable vocal source in humans that was critical to the evolution of speech – the ability to express thoughts and feelings using articulate sounds. This simplification of the larynx enabled humans to have excellent pitch control with long and stable speech sounds, they said.

Sound production mechanisms in people and nonhuman primates are similar, with air from the lungs driving oscillations of the vocal cords. Acoustical energy generated this way then passes through the pharyngeal, oral and nasal cavities and emerges in a form governed by the filtering of specific frequencies dictated by the vocal tract.

“Speech and language are critically related, but not synonymous,” said primatologist and psychologist Harold Gouzoules of Emory University in Atlanta, who wrote a commentary in Science accompanying the study. “Speech is the audible sound-based manner of language expression – and humans, alone among the primates, can produce it.”

Paradoxically, the increased complexity of human spoken language followed an evolutionary simplification.

“I think it’s pretty interesting that sometimes in evolution ‘less is more’ – that by losing a trait you might open the door to some new adaptations,” Fitch said…

Pivotal evolutionary change helped pave the way for human speech,” from Will Dunham @Reuters.

[Image above: source]

* Leonardo da Vinci

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As we simpify, we might send thoughtfully-analyzed birthday greetings to Karl Gegenbaur; he was born on this date in 1826. An anatomist and professor, he was the first to demonstrate that the field of comparative anatomy offers important evidence supporting of the theory of evolution— of which, he became one of Europe’s leading proponents.

Gegenbaur’s book Grundzüge der vergleichenden Anatomie (1859; English translation: Elements of Comparative Anatomy) became the standard textbook, at the time, of evolutionary morphology, emphasizing that structural similarities among various animals provide clues to their evolutionary history. In a way that prefigured the research featured above, Gegenbaur noted that the most reliable clue to evolutionary history is homology, the comparison of anatomical parts which have a common evolutionary origin.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 21, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts”*…

 

Bare-handed speech synthesis: “Pink Trombone.”

[image above: source]

* Talleyrand

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As we hold our tongues, we might send exploratory birthday greetings to John Wesley “Wes” Powell; he was born on this date in 1834.  A geologist and ethnologist, he published the first classification of American Indian languages and was the first director of the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology (1879-1902).  In 1869, despite having lost his right arm in the Civil War, Powell outfitted a small party of men in wooden boats in Wyoming, and descended down into the then unknown Colorado River. Daring that mighty river for a thousand miles of huge, often horrifying rapids, unsuspected dangers, and endless hardship, he and his men were the first (white explorers) to challenge the Grand Canyon.

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March 24, 2017 at 1:01 am

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever”*…

 

In A System of Elocution, with Special Reference to Gesture, to the Treatment of Stammering, and Defective Articulation (1846), Andrew Comstock set out to illustrate the proper gestures to adopt when public speaking.  Comstock emloyed a figure “acting out” a section from Milton’s Paradise Lost, in which Satan, expelled from Heaven and finding himself in Hell, delivers a speech to awaken his legions…

A physician and professor of elocution at the Vocal and Polyglot Gymnasium in Philadelphia, Comstock was hugely influential in the burgeoning science of elocution in mid-nineteenth-century America.  Among other questionable creations, he invented his own phonetic alphabet to improve the speech of his pupils, an alphabet which was also used to transcribe documents, including the New Testament.

More at “Speech of Satan to his Legions… (with Gestures).”

* Winston Churchill

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As we e-nun-ci-ate, we might recall that it was on this date in 1921 that Jane Heap And Margaret Anderson were sentenced by a federal court.  Heap and Anderson were publishers of The Little Review.  In 1918, they received a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses from their mutual friend Ezra Pound, and undertook to serialize it in their magazine.  Ulysses ran in the periodical– which also published  Pound, Hart Crane, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, William Butler Yeats, Sherwood Anderson, André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Malcolm Cowley, Marcel Duchamp, Ford Madox Ford, Emma Goldman, Vachel Lindsay, Amy Lowell, Francis Picabia, Carl Sandburg, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Arthur Waley, and William Carlos Williams– until 1920, when the U.S. Post Office seized and burned four issues of the magazine and charged Anderson and Heap with obscenity.  At the conclusion of the trial, in 1921, the women were fined $100 and and forced to discontinue the serialization.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 14, 2015 at 1:01 am

The Word of Muad’Dib…

 

What happens when you mash up Bill Watterson‘s Calvin and Hobbes with Frank Herbert’s Dune?  It gets even more philosophically resonant…

Embark on the adventure at Calvin & Muad’Dib.  [Muad’Dib? click here.]

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As we chuckle contemplatively, we might recall that it was on this date in 1960 that Cuban President Fidel Castro gave his debut speech at the U.N.– at four and a half hours, the longest ever in the General Assembly. Castro had taken a friendlier tone on his first U.S. visit, a year earlier; but by 1960, he had moved firmly into the Soviet Camp,  He used his maiden U.N. address to blast U.S. imperialism and to insult John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, the presidential candidates at the time.

Were Kennedy not a millionaire, illiterate, and ignorant, then he would obviously understand that you cannot revolt against the peasants.

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September 26, 2013 at 1:01 am

Say what?…

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Trying to master a role in a Tennessee Williams play?  Place someone by their accent?  Steven Weinberger, a linguist at George Mason University can help.  He’s created The Speech Accent Archive, where one can click on a map to hear some native, some non-native English speakers from all over the world– but in each case reciting the same short English paragraph, crafted to contain every sound in the Queen’s Language.

(C.F. also the previously-reported British Library Map of Accents and Dialects.)

As we smooth our sibilants, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that Northwestern University conferred an honorary degree on ventriloquist’s dummy Charlie McCarthy (whose “partner,” Edgar Bergen, had attended Northwestern, but never graduated).

Lest we doubt that Bergen and his wooden friend were worthy of the academic accolade, we might note that they have been credited by some with “saving the world”: later that same year, on the night of October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles performed his War of the Worlds radio play, panicking many listeners, most of the American public had tuned instead to Bergen and McCarthy on another station.   (Dissenters note that Bergen may inadvertently have contributed to the hysteria: when the musical portion of Bergen’s show [The Chase and Sanborn Hour] aired about twelve minutes into the show, many listeners switched stations– to discover War of the Worlds in progress, with an all-too-authentic-sounding reporter detailing a horrific alien invasion.

Charlie McCarthy, BA (left), with his friend Edgar Bergen (source)

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