Phonetics of the Origina and Evolution of Speech
  • ISSN 1387-5337
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9757
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This paper describes computer simulations that investigate the role of self-organisation in explaining the universals of human vowel systems. It has been observed that human vowel systems show remarkable regularities, and that these regularities optimise acoustic distinctiveness and are therefore adaptive for good communication. Traditionally, universals have been explained as the result of innate properties of the human language faculty, and therefore need an evolutionary explanation. In this paper it is argued that the regularities emerge as the result of self-organisation in a population and therefore need not be the result of biological evolution.The hypothesis is investigated with two different computer simulations that are based on a population of agents that try to imitate each other as well as possible. Each agent can produce and perceive vowels in a human-like way and stores vowels as articulatory and acoustic prototypes. The aim of the agents is to imitate each other as well as possible.It will be shown that successful repertoires of vowels emerge that show the same regularities as human vowel systems.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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