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Exploring potential climate effects on the evolution of human sound systems

Roberts, S. G., Everett, C., & Blasi, D. (2015). Exploring potential climate effects on the evolution of human sound systems. In H. Little (Ed.), Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences [ICPhS 2015] Satellite Event: The Evolution of Phonetic Capabilities: Causes constraints, consequences (pp. 14-19). Glasgow: ICPHS.
We suggest that it is now possible to conduct research on a topic which might be called evolutionary geophonetics. The main question is how the climate influences the evolution of language. This involves biological adaptations to the climate that may affect biases in production and perception; cultural evolutionary adaptations of the sounds of a language to climatic conditions; and influences of the climate on language diversity and contact. We discuss these ideas with special reference to a recent hypothesis that lexical tone is not adaptive in dry climates (Everett, Blasi & Roberts, 2015).
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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