(Mirror Daily, United States) – Linguistic studies usually focus on modern humans’ abilities to utter words and sentences. Researchers from the Binghamton University in New York have published the first study to illustrate how early humans spoke two-million-years ago.
Rolf Quam’s scientific endeavor was meant to shed light on the hearing apparatus of humans’ ancestors, but analyses have led them to even more interesting discoveries. According to Quam, hominins living 2 million years ago were capable of uttering linguistic phonemes.
It is very unlikely that hominins were capable of modern speech or foreign languages. Yet, Quam believes this is the period when the first linguistic phonemes were used for the first time. Based on his recent findings, our ancestors used frequent combinations of fricative consonants like “F”, “S”, “Th” and occlusive consonants, such as, “K” and “T”.
This means speech pauses were very frequent among hominin-to-hominin conversations. These sounds could have been alternated by frictions and continuous notes determined by the large presence of fricatives.
This discovery has been made as the team of researchers tried to understand the hearing apparatus of early humans. For the current study, scientists compared fossils of human ancestors to data pertaining to 11 species of chimps and modern humans. The hearing apparatus of each and every species has been reconstructed with the help of computer tomographies (CT) and recreated models of ears.
Tests have revealed that hominins living 2 million years ago had already separated themselves from chimpanzees. Their hearing apparatus preserved some of primates’ abilities, but also presented unique features.
Computer simulations have revealed that early humans could perceive sounds ranging between 1.5 and 3.5 kHz frequencies, whereas modern humans have a much wider variety of frequencies from 1 to 6 kHz.
When applied to real life communication, the 1.5 and 3.5 kHz frequencies appear only in short-range communications. This means this was the time when hominins started bearing their first ‘intimate’ conversations. The sounds that they uttered 2 million years ago could only be heard at distances of up to 23 meters.
Chimpanzees, on the other hand, still produced long-range sounds that were specific for the jungle environment. Quam has further stated that early humans most probably lived in the African savanna because this was the only environment where short-range communications were possible. Otherwise, hominins wouldn’t have been able to hear each other.
Although additional studies need to be conducted in this field, Quam thinks he holds the invincible argument in support of his new theory. He has proven that most of the plants that early humans ate belonged to the savanna and not to the jungle.
To sum up, human ancestors began perceiving short-range frequencies and utter sounds two million years ago. This finding was published in the latest edition of the journal Science Advances.
Image source: www.techtimes.com