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The Frame/Content theory of evolution of speech: A comparison with a gestural-origins alternative

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Abstract:

The Frame/Content theory deals with how and why the first language evolved the present-day speech mode of programming syllable “Frame” structures with segmental (consonant and vowel) “Content” elements. The first words are considered, for biomechanical reasons, to have had the simple syllable frame structures of pre-speech babbling (e.g., “bababa”), and were perhaps parental terms, generated within the parent–infant dyad. Although all gestural origins theories (including Arbib’s theory reviewed here) have iconicity as a plausible alternative hypothesis for the origin of the meaning-signal link for words, they all share the problems of how and why a fully fledged sign language, necessarily involving a structured phonology, changed to a spoken language.

Keywords: evolution; sign language; speech; syllables; words

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/is.6.2.03mac

Affiliations: The University of Texas at Austin

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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