Comparative anatomy of the larynx in man and the chimpanzee: Implications for language in Neanderthal


  • An earlier version of this paper was read at the April, 1973 meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Dallas, Texas.


Using the larynges of the newborn human and chimpanzee as models, Lieberman and Crelin ('71) and Lieberman, Crelin and Klatt ('72) have reconstructed the larynx of the “classic” Neanderthal La Chapelle aux Saints. The authors used their reconstructed vocal tract to generate linguistic functions which led them to conclude that Neanderthal lacked the ability to produce fully articulate human speech. In this paper, it is shown that their reconstruction of the larynx of Neanderthal is based on a placement of the hyoid bone of La Chapelle which is too high. The reconstructed hyoid bone has been placed in a position unlike that occupied by hyoid bones of newborn humans, adult humans, stillborn chimpanzees or adult chimpanzees. In any laryngeal reconstruction, the function of swallowing must be taken into account. The ability of the reconstructed Neanderthal to swallow is discussed in light of a comparative analysis of swallowing in man and the chimpanzee. It is concluded that the statement that Neanderthal was less than fully articulate remains unsubstantiated because it rests on a questionable reconstruction of the larynx.