Arboreal origin of consonants and thus, ultimately, speech

Trends Cogn Sci. 2023 Feb;27(2):122-124. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2022.11.012. Epub 2022 Dec 20.


The world's spoken languages are universally composed of vowels and consonants, but the primate prototypical call repertoire is almost exclusively composed of vowel-like calls. What was the origin of consonant-like calls? Their prevalence across great apes suggests that an arboreal lifestyle and extractive foraging were ecological preconditions for speech evolution.

Keywords: consonants; extractive foraging; feeding ecology; great apes; speech evolution; speech origin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Phonetics
  • Speech Perception*
  • Speech*