The neuroethology of primate vocal communication: Substrates for the evolution of speech

Asif A. Ghazanfar, Marc D. Hauser

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


In this article, we review behavioral and neurobiological studies of the perception and use of species-specific vocalizations by non-human primates. At the behavioral level, primate vocal perception shares many features with speech perception by humans. These features include a left-hemisphere bias towards conspecific vocalizations, the use of temporal features for identifying different calls, and the use of calls to refer to objects and events in the environment. The putative neural bases for some of these behaviors have been revealed by recent studies of the primate auditory and prefrontal cortices. These studies also suggest homologies with the human language circuitry. Thus, a synthesis of cognitive, ethological and neurobiological approaches to primate vocal behavior is likely to yield the richest understanding of the neural bases of speech perception, and might also shed light on the evolutionary precursors to language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-384
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 1999
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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