The potential Neandertal vowel space was as large as that of modern humans. Boë, L.; Heim, J.; Honda, K.; and Maeda, S. Journal of Phonetics, 30(3):465-484, July.
The potential Neandertal vowel space was as large as that of modern humans [link]Paper  doi  abstract   bibtex   
Since Lieberman and Crelin (1971) postulated the theory that Neandertals "could not produce the range of sounds that characterize human speech", the potential speech capability of Neandertals has been the subject of hot debate. Lieberman and Crelin claimed that the development of a low laryngeal position was a necessary condition for the realization of a sufficient number of vocalic contrasts, since the potential vowel space was enlarged due to an enlarged pharyngeal cavity. Like newborn infants, Neandertals did not possess this "anatomical basis of speech", and therefore could not speak. Lieberman and Crelin further claimed that this fact may have caused the, otherwise mysterious, extinction of the Neandertal. In this study, we refute the articulatory and acoustic arguments developed by Lieberman and Crelin in their theory. Using a new anthropomorphic articulatory model, we infer that the vowel space of the Neandertal male was no smaller than that of a modern human, and we present vowel simulations to corroborate this hypothesis. Our study is strictly limited to the morphological and acoustic aspects of the vocal tract, and we cannot therefore offer any definitive answer to the question of whether Neandertals spoke or not. However, we do feel safe in claiming that Neandertals were not morphologically handicapped for speech. A low larynx (and large pharynx) cannot be considered to be the "anatomical prerequisites for producing the full range of human speech". There is, therefore, no reason to believe that the lowering of the larynx and a concomitant increase in pharynx size are necessary evolutionary preadaptations for speech. © 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
@article{boe_potential_2002,
	Author = {Boë, Louis-Jean and Heim, Jean-Louis and Honda, Kiyoshi and Maeda, Shinji},
	Date = {2002},
	Date-Modified = {2017-04-19 08:04:06 +0000},
	Doi = {10.1006/jpho.2002.0170},
	Issn = {00954470},
	Journal = {Journal of Phonetics},
	Keywords = {evolution, evolution of language, evolution of speech},
	Month = jul,
	Number = {3},
	Pages = {465-484},
	Title = {The potential Neandertal vowel space was as large as that of modern humans},
	Url = {http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0095447002901701},
	Volume = {30},
	Abstract = {Since Lieberman and Crelin (1971) postulated the theory that Neandertals "could not produce the range of sounds that characterize human speech", the potential speech capability of Neandertals has been the subject of hot debate. Lieberman and Crelin claimed that the development of a low laryngeal position was a necessary condition for the realization of a sufficient number of vocalic contrasts, since the potential vowel space was enlarged due to an enlarged pharyngeal cavity. Like newborn infants, Neandertals did not possess this "anatomical basis of speech", and therefore could not speak. Lieberman and Crelin further claimed that this fact may have caused the, otherwise mysterious, extinction of the Neandertal. In this study, we refute the articulatory and acoustic arguments developed by Lieberman and Crelin in their theory. Using a new anthropomorphic articulatory model, we infer that the vowel space of the Neandertal male was no smaller than that of a modern human, and we present vowel simulations to corroborate this hypothesis. Our study is strictly limited to the morphological and acoustic aspects of the vocal tract, and we cannot therefore offer any definitive answer to the question of whether Neandertals spoke or not. However, we do feel safe in claiming that Neandertals were not morphologically handicapped for speech. A low larynx (and large pharynx) cannot be considered to be the "anatomical prerequisites for producing the full range of human speech". There is, therefore, no reason to believe that the lowering of the larynx and a concomitant increase in pharynx size are necessary evolutionary preadaptations for speech. © 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.},
	Bdsk-Url-1 = {http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0095447002901701},
	Bdsk-Url-2 = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/jpho.2002.0170}}
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