Evolution of Communication: from animal signals to human speech

Module code: C8600
Level 6
15 credits in spring semester
Teaching method: Lecture, Laboratory, Film, Workshop
Assessment modes: Essay, Coursework

In this module, you explore the evolution of communication, progressing from the vocal signals that animals produce and the functions they serve, to then consider the differences between animal and human communications - to evaluate theories of language evolution and discover the unique properties of human speech. In the course of this, you also examine ape language studies and gestural theories of language origins.

You are exposed to tools and skills that will allow you to conduct research in this area yourself - through lectures, interactive research workshop sessions and practical demonstrations.

This module should very much appeal to both psychologists and biologists who are interested in how vocal signals provide the basis for animal sexual and social behaviour, the evolution of communication, the question of whether any animal can be said to have a language, and the production and perception of human speech.

Module learning outcomes

  • Systematically understand how vocal (or gestural) signals function in animal and human communication
  • Devise and sustain arguments relating to primary research on the evolution of communication
  • Critically evaluate core concepts and experimental designs central to advancing research on the evolution of communication
  • Communicate to specialist and non-specialist audience on the significance of key advances in this field