Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Multimodal communication and language origins: integrating gestures and vocalizations


Fröhlich, Marlen; Sievers, Christine; Townsend, Simon W; Gruber, Thibaud; van Schaik, Carel P (2019). Multimodal communication and language origins: integrating gestures and vocalizations. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 94(5):1809-1829.

Abstract

The presence of divergent and independent research traditions in the gestural and vocal domains of primate communication has resulted in major discrepancies in the definition and operationalization of cognitive concepts. However, in recent years, accumulating evidence from behavioural and neurobiological research has shown that both human and non‐human primate communication is inherently multimodal. It is therefore timely to integrate the study of gestural and vocal communication. Herein, we review evidence demonstrating that there is no clear difference between primate gestures and vocalizations in the extent to which they show evidence for the presence of key language properties: intentionality, reference, iconicity and turn‐taking. We also find high overlap in the neurobiological mechanisms producing primate gestures and vocalizations, as well as in ontogenetic flexibility. These findings confirm that human language had multimodal origins. Nonetheless, we note that in great apes, gestures seem to fulfil a carrying (i.e. predominantly informative) role in close‐range communication, whereas the opposite holds for face‐to‐face interactions of humans. This suggests an evolutionary shift in the carrying role from the gestural to the vocal stream, and we explore this transition in the carrying modality. Finally, we suggest that future studies should focus on the links between complex communication, sociality and cooperative tendency to strengthen the study of language origins.

Abstract

The presence of divergent and independent research traditions in the gestural and vocal domains of primate communication has resulted in major discrepancies in the definition and operationalization of cognitive concepts. However, in recent years, accumulating evidence from behavioural and neurobiological research has shown that both human and non‐human primate communication is inherently multimodal. It is therefore timely to integrate the study of gestural and vocal communication. Herein, we review evidence demonstrating that there is no clear difference between primate gestures and vocalizations in the extent to which they show evidence for the presence of key language properties: intentionality, reference, iconicity and turn‐taking. We also find high overlap in the neurobiological mechanisms producing primate gestures and vocalizations, as well as in ontogenetic flexibility. These findings confirm that human language had multimodal origins. Nonetheless, we note that in great apes, gestures seem to fulfil a carrying (i.e. predominantly informative) role in close‐range communication, whereas the opposite holds for face‐to‐face interactions of humans. This suggests an evolutionary shift in the carrying role from the gestural to the vocal stream, and we explore this transition in the carrying modality. Finally, we suggest that future studies should focus on the links between complex communication, sociality and cooperative tendency to strengthen the study of language origins.

Statistics

Citations

Altmetrics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Language:English
Date:1 October 2019
Deposited On:31 Jul 2019 10:25
Last Modified:25 Sep 2019 00:38
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0006-3231
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12535
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDCR13I1_162720
  • : Project TitleA comparative approach of emotion categorization versus discrimination: investigation through near-infrared spectroscopy in Chimpanzee and Humans
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPP00P3_163850
  • : Project TitleCombinatoriality in animal vocal communication
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDP300PA_164678
  • : Project TitleHow chimpanzees understand their tools and how this compares to human children

Download

Full text not available from this repository.
View at publisher

Get full-text in a library