“Y/Our” Vocal Sounds – Towards an Ethological Classification of Human Vocalizing Behavior and Sounds

Theoretical Review

Jay R. Feierman

Human Ethology Bulletin, Volume 32, No 3, 3-33,  published September 30, 2017
DOI:  https://doi.org/10.22330/heb/323/003-033

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Human ethology has been accused of being the behavioral science that treats humans as though they don’t make vocal sounds. Although heritable, coordinated patterns of movement or fixed action patterns (Erbkoordinationen), which are the fundamental building blocks of classical ethology, can generate “our” vocal sounds (e.g., laughing, crying, and screaming), they cannot generate “your” vocal sounds (e.g., spoken words in English, German, French, Spanish, etc.). These latter “your” vocal sounds are made by single muscle movements, which when volitionally repeated, combined or coordinated, can generate culture-specific, behaviorally-generated vocal sound symbols, such as the general names in each culture for persons who give birth to babies (e.g., mother, Mutter, mère, madre). This article is a first attempt at an ethological classification of human vocalizing behaviors and the sounds they make. Lastly, how human ethologists could study these two different types of human vocalizing behaviors, using the sounds they make as proxies, will be discussed.


KeywordsBehavior, biology, classification, ethology, sound, speech, Type I behavior, Type II behavior, vocal.



ISSN: 2224-4476