Linguistic research usually focuses on modern human ability to pronounce words and sentences. But here research scientists from Binghamton University, New York, published the first study of the speech of early people who lived two million years ago.
Scientist Rolf Kwam in his research was supposed to shed light on the hearing aid of human ancestors, but analyzes showed him something more interesting. According to Kwam, hominins (early humans) who lived 2 million years ago could pronounce linguistic phonemes.
It is highly unlikely that hominins could have mastered modern speech or foreign languages. But Kwam believes that during this period the first linguistic phonemes were used for the first time. If you believe the recent results of his research, then our ancestors often used a combination of gap consonants (“F”, “C”) and voiceless consonants (“K”, “T”).
This means that pauses in speech were quite common in the communication of one hominin with another. These sounds could be replaced by noises and monotonous sounds, and could be accompanied by a large number of hissing sounds.
This discovery was made when researchers were trying to understand the hearing aid of early humans. For this study, scientists compared the fossils of human ancestors with data from 11 different breeds of chimpanzees and modern humans. The hearing aid and ear models of each species were reconstructed using computed tomography.
The test showed that hominins that lived 2 million years ago have already completely separated from chimpanzees. Their hearing aids not only retained some primate abilities, but also had some special properties.
What sounds were perceived by early people
Computer simulation has shown that early humans could perceive sounds at 1.5kHz and 3.5kHz, while modern humans, in turn, perceive a wider range (1kHz – 6kHz).
If we turn to communication in real life, then the frequencies of 1.5 kHz and 3.5 kHz are found only in small ranges. This means that 2 million years ago, hominins began to develop speech in their first “personal” conversations. The sounds they made could be heard at a distance of up to 23 meters.
Chimpanzees, on the other hand, could produce a wide range of sounds that were characteristic of the jungle. Kwam argued that early humans most likely lived in the African savannah because it was the only environment where small-range communication was possible. Otherwise, the hominins would not be able to hear each other.
Scientists’ conclusions about early humans While more research needs to be done in this area, Kwam believes he has an invincible argument to support his new theory. He proved that most of the plants that early humans ate came from the savannah environment, not the jungle. Therefore, you can be sure that they lived in the savannah.
To summarize: human ancestors began to perceive and produce sounds at low frequencies two million years ago. This discovery was published in the latest edition of Science Advances.