Auditory-Vocal Communication

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Human Uniqueness Compared to "Great Apes": 
Absolute Difference
Human Universality: 
Individual Universal (All Individuals Everywhere)
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Human speech occurs in the auditory-vocal modality. Other properties of the auditory-vocal modality play a role in non-verbal human communication, notably limbically controlled vestigial primate vocal behaviors: laughing, crying, shrieking, sighing, etc. Other animal species have been trained to comprehend (bonobos, border collies, African grey parrots) and to produce (African grey parrots) – with intent to communicate rather than merely mimic, at least some of the time – only limited aspects of human speech. (1,2,3,4)


Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Probable Appearance: 
100 thousand years ago
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  1. The Biology and Evolution of Speech: A Comparative Analysis, W. Fitch, Tecumseh , Annual Review of Linguistics, 2018/01/14, Volume 4, Issue 1, p.255 - 279, (2018)
  2. The function and mechanism of vocal accommodation in humans and other primates., Ruch, Hanna, Zürcher Yvonne, and Burkart Judith M. , Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc, 2018 05, Volume 93, Issue 2, p.996-1013, (2018)
  3. Proto-consonants were information-dense via identical bioacoustic tags to proto-vowels, Lameira, Adriano R., Vicente Raquel, Alexandre António, Campbell-Smith Gail, Knott Cheryl, Wich Serge, and Hardus Madeleine E. , Nature Human Behaviour, 2017/02/08, Volume 1, p.0044 - , (2017)
  4. Neural organization of spoken language revealed by lesion-symptom mapping., Mirman, Daniel, Chen Qi, Zhang Yongsheng, Wang Ze, Faseyitan Olufunsho K., H Coslett Branch, and Schwartz Myrna F. , Nat Commun, 2015, Volume 6, p.6762, (2015)
  5. Border collie comprehends object names as verbal referents, Pilley, John W., and Reid Alliston K. , Behavioural Processes, Volume 86, Issue 2, p.184 - 195, (2011)
  6. Word learning in a domestic dog: evidence for "fast mapping"., Kaminski, Juliane, Call Josep, and Fischer Julia , Science, 2004 Jun 11, Volume 304, Issue 5677, p.1682-3, (2004)
  7. Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind, E. Savage-Rumbaugh, Sue, and Lewin Roger , New York, p.299, (1994)