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Emotional and Interactional Prosody across Animal Communication Systems: A Comparative Approach to the Emergence of Language

Filippi, P. (2016). Emotional and Interactional Prosody across Animal Communication Systems: A Comparative Approach to the Emergence of Language. Frontiers in Psychology, 7: 1393. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01393.
Across a wide range of animal taxa, prosodic modulation of the voice can express emotional information and is used to coordinate vocal interactions between multiple individuals. Within a comparative approach to animal communication systems, I hypothesize that the ability for emotional and interactional prosody (EIP) paved the way for the evolution of linguistic prosody – and perhaps also of music, continuing to play a vital role in the acquisition of language. In support of this hypothesis, I review three research fields: (i) empirical studies on the adaptive value of EIP in non-human primates, mammals, songbirds, anurans, and insects; (ii) the beneficial effects of EIP in scaffolding language learning and social development in human infants; (iii) the cognitive relationship between linguistic prosody and the ability for music, which has often been identified as the evolutionary precursor of language.
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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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