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Sept 28, 1963

A New Theory Concerning the Origin of Speech

Author Affiliations

Princeton, N.J.

JAMA. 1963;185(13):1017-1018. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03060130035010

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THEORIES concerning the origin of speech are as thick as the autumnal leaves that strew the banks in Vallombrosa—and as ephemeral. Much ingenuity has been spent in the attempt to reconstruct the conditions under which that most remarkable of all man's faculties, speech, originated, but always with indifferent success. This failure by no means constitutes a reflection upon those who have tried, for the truth is that the necessary data upon the basis of which an adequate theory of speech could be erected were simply not available until very recently. With this advantage on my side I here propose a theory of the origin of speech which, I believe, probably corresponds more closely with the actual genesis of speech than any other theory hitherto offered.

Before proceeding with my own theory, it would perhaps be of interest to the reader to have a brief exposition of the theories of the origin of speech hitherto offered. These are not unamusing. They are as follows:

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