What Did One Neandertal Say the Other Neadertal

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The Speech Capabilities of late Archaic Homo Sapiens
Brandi Fowler
Ivy Tech Community College
December 4, 2012

Although there is no direct evidence and a species language or their language capabilities do not fossilize, coupled with more modern techniques being used today and archeological evidence, it is possible now to study this topic with more success than in previous years. There is a record that supports the suggestion of Homo neandertal speech capabilities. Previous to the recovery of an intact middle paleolithic hyoid bone, the reconstructed vocal tract and the FOXP2 gene, the lack of evidence on the speech capabilities of Homo neandertals led most scholars to regard the topic as unsuitable for serious study
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Robert McCarthy’s reconstructed vocal tract. The basicranium is a technical term referring to the base of the skull that is necessary for speech production. The basicranium can tell us quite a bit about the position of the larynx in the vocal tract. In the recent La Chappelle cranium reconstruction of H. neandertal the cranial base angle is at 137.5°, which fits into the range of modern human variation (Mahathey). A fully arched basicranium would suggest that the H. neandertal vocal tract is anatomically modern and that they would have the full range of vowels needed to speak a modern language. This is because the basicranium flexion allows the larynx the space to emit and modify sounds(Ash and Robinson, 2011).
The basicranium flexion or the arching of the cranial base reflects the low or high positioning of the larynx. The low positioning of the larynx enlarges the space above it which enables its emitted sounds to be modified. If the flexion of the basicranium is flat or has a very low arch then the larynx is too high for many modern sounds to be made (Ash and Robinson, 2011). With a high positioned larynx H. neandertals would have been limited to the number of vowels they could produce, nevertheless this is not to say they could not produce speech. A limitation to this is that even though the skull and hyoid bone are present it is difficult to replicate the soft tissue of the vocal tract since soft tissue does not fossilize
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