The speech skill is a wonder. To produce a phrase, about 100 muscles of the chest, neck, jaw, tongue and lips must collaborate. Each muscle is a bundle made of hundreds or thousands of fibers.Each spoken word or short phrase is accompanied by its own pattern of muscular movements. All the information necessary for speaking a phrase like “How are you?” is stored in the brain, in the speech area.
A simple “Hello” can transmit a lot of things. The voice’s tone shows if the speaker is happy, pleased, bored, hurried, angry, sad, scared, aggressive or dominant and the intensity of these states; irony, affection, support or joke.
The sound of each individual’s voice is entirely unique. Each person has vocal cords that vary in shape and size resulting in different tones, frequencies, ranges of sounds and vocal abilities. There are several other factors that determine a person’s voice such as the size and shape of the rest of that person’s body, especially the vocal tract, which changes with age and is affected temporarily, if someone has a cold.
Learning the speech requires early interaction with the others. The brain seems to have a period when it acquires speech and if this period is skipped over, the individual won’t gain later the speech skill. The speech can develop only inside a community and at the age when the brain is growing.
Early humans could have had a rudimentary speech system of visual, tactile and auditive calls, resembling animal communication. Speech appeared when we acquired the ability of representing objects through symbols and communicate to another individual our own mental creations. Our special brain enabled us to do this.
The first symbolic language emerged 2.5 million years ago, when Homo habilis started to fabricate the first stone tools. This ability surely played a key role in the development of symbolic communication. Articulating went perfecting till first Homo sapiens, 150,000 years ago, emitting sounds similar to that spoken by modern humans
The modern 6,000 languages are believed to have originated in a sole mother language, as humans are believed to have formed just a small population of about 1,000 individuals 50,000 years ago.