Emotional Voice Intonation: A Communication Code at the Origins of Speech Processing and Word-Meaning Associations?


  • Filippi Piera

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Abstract The aim of the present work is to investigate the facilitating effect of vocal emotional intonation on the evolution of the following processes involved in language: (a) identifying and producing phonemes, (b) processing compositional rules underlying vocal utterances, and (c) associating vocal utterances with meanings. To this end, firstly, I examine research on the presence of these abilities in animals, and the biologically ancient nature of emotional vocalizations. Secondly, I review research attesting to the facilitating effect of emotional voice intonation on these abilities in humans. Thirdly, building on these studies in animals and humans, and through taking an evolutionary perspective, I provide insights for future empirical work on the facilitating effect of emotional intonation on these three processes in animals and preverbal humans. In this work, I highlight the importance of a comparative approach to investigate language evolution empirically. This review supports Darwin’s hypothesis, according to which the ability to express emotions through voice modulation was a key step in the evolution of spoken language.

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