Rhythm in speech and animal vocalizations: a cross-species perspective
Research output: Contribution to journal › Review article › Academic › peer-review
Why does human speech have rhythm? As we cannot travel back in time to witness how speech developed its rhythmic properties and why humans have the cognitive skills to process them, we rely on alternative methods to find out. One powerful tool is the comparative approach: studying the presence or absence of cognitive/behavioral traits in other species to determine which traits are shared between species and which are recent human inventions. Vocalizations of many species exhibit temporal structure, but little is known about how these rhythmic structures evolved, are perceived and produced, their biological and developmental bases, and communicative functions. We review the literature on rhythm in speech and animal vocalizations as a first step toward understanding similarities and differences across species. We extend this review to quantitative techniques that are useful for computing rhythmic structure in acoustic sequences and hence facilitate cross-species research. We report links between vocal perception and motor coordination and the differentiation of rhythm based on hierarchical temporal structure. While still far from a complete cross-species perspective of speech rhythm, our review puts some pieces of the puzzle together.