Repeated imitation makes human vocalizations more word-like

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Repeated imitation makes human vocalizations more word-like. / Edmiston, Pierce; Perlman, Marcus; Lupyan, Gary.

In: Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences, Vol. 285, No. 1874, 07.03.2018.

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@article{a791153d8ea24a0eb16c0c5ff8bbd9a5,
title = "Repeated imitation makes human vocalizations more word-like",
abstract = "People have long pondered the evolution of language and the origin of words. Here, we investigate how conventional spoken words might emerge from imitations of environmental sounds. Does the repeated imitation of an environmental sound gradually give rise to more word-like forms? In what ways do these forms resemble the original sounds that motivated them (i.e. exhibit iconicity)? Participants played a version of the children's game {\textquoteleft}Telephone{\textquoteright}. The first generation of participants imitated recognizable environmental sounds (e.g. glass breaking, water splashing). Subsequent generations imitated the previous generation of imitations for a maximum of eight generations. The results showed that the imitations became more stable and word-like, and later imitations were easier to learn as category labels. At the same time, even after eight generations, both spoken imitations and their written transcriptions could be matched above chance to the category of environmental sound that motivated them. These results show how repeated imitation can create progressively more word-like forms while continuing to retain a resemblance to the original sound that motivated them, and speak to the possible role of human vocal imitation in explaining the origins of at least some spoken words.",
author = "Pierce Edmiston and Marcus Perlman and Gary Lupyan",
year = "2018",
month = mar,
day = "7",
doi = "10.1098/rspb.2017.2709",
language = "English",
volume = "285",
journal = "Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences",
issn = "0962-8452",
publisher = "The Royal Society",
number = "1874",

}

RIS

TY - JOUR

T1 - Repeated imitation makes human vocalizations more word-like

AU - Edmiston, Pierce

AU - Perlman, Marcus

AU - Lupyan, Gary

PY - 2018/3/7

Y1 - 2018/3/7

N2 - People have long pondered the evolution of language and the origin of words. Here, we investigate how conventional spoken words might emerge from imitations of environmental sounds. Does the repeated imitation of an environmental sound gradually give rise to more word-like forms? In what ways do these forms resemble the original sounds that motivated them (i.e. exhibit iconicity)? Participants played a version of the children's game ‘Telephone’. The first generation of participants imitated recognizable environmental sounds (e.g. glass breaking, water splashing). Subsequent generations imitated the previous generation of imitations for a maximum of eight generations. The results showed that the imitations became more stable and word-like, and later imitations were easier to learn as category labels. At the same time, even after eight generations, both spoken imitations and their written transcriptions could be matched above chance to the category of environmental sound that motivated them. These results show how repeated imitation can create progressively more word-like forms while continuing to retain a resemblance to the original sound that motivated them, and speak to the possible role of human vocal imitation in explaining the origins of at least some spoken words.

AB - People have long pondered the evolution of language and the origin of words. Here, we investigate how conventional spoken words might emerge from imitations of environmental sounds. Does the repeated imitation of an environmental sound gradually give rise to more word-like forms? In what ways do these forms resemble the original sounds that motivated them (i.e. exhibit iconicity)? Participants played a version of the children's game ‘Telephone’. The first generation of participants imitated recognizable environmental sounds (e.g. glass breaking, water splashing). Subsequent generations imitated the previous generation of imitations for a maximum of eight generations. The results showed that the imitations became more stable and word-like, and later imitations were easier to learn as category labels. At the same time, even after eight generations, both spoken imitations and their written transcriptions could be matched above chance to the category of environmental sound that motivated them. These results show how repeated imitation can create progressively more word-like forms while continuing to retain a resemblance to the original sound that motivated them, and speak to the possible role of human vocal imitation in explaining the origins of at least some spoken words.

U2 - 10.1098/rspb.2017.2709

DO - 10.1098/rspb.2017.2709

M3 - Article

VL - 285

JO - Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences

JF - Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences

SN - 0962-8452

IS - 1874

ER -