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Lyz Cooper
from: Lyz Cooper
Category: Language & Sound

The Origins of Language for Therapeutic Use

Article 1 – The Voice

In this short series of articles I aim to explore how sound has evolved through us (and vice versa) since the dawn of human civilisation to the present day and therefore how and why sound and music is such a powerful healing tool. This is a vast subject and therefore I will only be touching on certain areas.  In this article I will concentrate on the voice, how language developed and the use of vocal sounds for healing.

The Dawn of Our Relationship with Sound

Let’s journey back 4.5 million years ago to when our ancestors were more ape-like. At that time our brains were around one third of the size they are now. We would not have had complex language but would have made sounds similar to those that apes make today.  How do we know that?

The first factor was down to the shape of the skull, teeth and hyoid bone (which enables us to speak) which were not developed enough for us to have complex language. The second factor was that the shape of early humans’ rib cage was more like a lampshade - smaller at the top than the bottom and this meant that our early ancestors would not have been able to sustain sounds for too long.

Our early ancestors would have only been able to take small breaths so would have made sounds whilst ‘panting’ jus tas many monkeys do these days. Early vocalisations would have been basic calls to let each other known when they were happy, angry or when there was danger.  They probably would also have had mating calls and sounds to soothe their children as well as identification sounds so that they could call to their loved ones when they were out of sight. The Vervet monkey, for example, has different calls for ‘snake’, ‘leopard’ and ‘eagle’ and when they hear these calls, take the appropriate shelter. Although we don’t know for sure, it makes sense that early hominids would have done the same.


The remains of ancient tiny inner ear bones, called ‘ossicles’ have been found which tell us that our early ancestors were more sensitive to higher pitch sounds than we are today.  Although most of us are not quite as sensitive to high pitch sounds as we used to be, we are still more sensitive to high frequencies – especially in the 2,000 – 5,000 frequency band which explains why we find the cry of a baby or police siren so penetrating as they fall within this band. It is likely that millions of years ago, our warning cries would have been high pitch just like our screams are today as these call us to attention.  

Somewhere between 2.5 and 1.8 million years ago something very interesting happened... read more on my blog ....

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