Neanderthal Talk

150_neanderthalScientists have recreated what they believe to be the voice of Neanderthals.
Robert McCarthy, an anthropologist at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton has used new reconstructions of Neanderthal vocal tracts to simulate the voice. He says the ancient human's speech lacked the "quantal vowel" sounds that underlie modern speech.

Quantal vowels provide cues that help speakers with different size vocal tracts understand one another, says McCarthy, who was talking at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Columbus, Ohio, on April 11.

"They would have spoken a bit differently. They wouldn't have been able to produce these quantal vowels that form the basis of spoken language," he says.

New Scientist has very short audio clips contrasting the Neanderthal and modern human speech. Link -via Yahoo News

(image credit: Anthropological Institute, University of Zürich)

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This was covered quite nicely by the SF writer Robert J. Sawyer in his novel "Hominids", about a quantum physicist from a parallel universe where Neanderthals became dominant who falls into our universe.
He couldn't pronounce the 'ee' phoneme, so he had to refer to the character Mary as "Mare".
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Isn't our species superior to Neanderthals? Last time I checked, they died out, we are still here and most evidence points to the fact that we didn't kill them, they died of their own accord. Some claim Neanderthals are smarter because of their larger brains, but modern humans have smaller brains than our ancestors and tests indicate that our intelligence goes up with every generation.
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The comments following the article are more entertaining than the initial discussion.
Just read them and have the nerve to consider our species superior. lol
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