Iconicity and ecology of some non standard speech registers


Thursday 20 March 2014, 14h00 - 16h00


Collegium de Lyon, 15 parvis René-Descartes, 69007 Lyon, Salle R143.

Iconicity and ecology of some non standard speech registers

In his second great book "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex", Darwin tackled the subject of language by presenting a model of "musical protolanguage" that has been widely criticized and completed. This model has the advantage to rely on a multidisciplinary comparison of biological data. It is a rich “multicomponent” view with several distinct mechanisms to produce the complex language phenomenon. It has the particularity to attribute an important role to imitation processes, to the control of vocal learning and to a common origin of language and music. Interestingly, the importance of these factors for language emergence has been reaffirmed in more recent models proposed for example by Brown (“musilanguage” model) and Fitch (“prosodic protolanguage” model) with always a special emphasis on the crucial role of prosodic aspects of speech.

This presentation proposes precisely to study scientific questions raised by three oral practices that permit the transformation of human voice into simple prosodic signals, or vice versa. Two of these practices (whistled speech and instrumental speech) are the result of the emulation of standard or sung speech in whistles or notes played with musical instruments. The other one consists of the linguistic representation of animal calls (vocables for hunting, onomatopoeia). It has been much more concerned by theories on the evolution of language but is still incompletely studied by phonetics and psycholinguistics. All of them are principally practiced nowadays by traditional language communities in some of the less spoken languages of the world and are associated to vanishing rural activities. However, as will be shown in this ‘Séminaire’ their study is of great interest to better understand imitation processes and prosody in human languages, but also the impact of acoustic environmental constraints on speech recognition and production.


Sciences du langage et linguistique
14/10/2013 - 15/08/2014