Robert McCarthy, an anthropologist at NewScientist.com reported on Wednesday.in , used new reconstructions of Neanderthal vocal tracts to work out how they would have sounded,
The conclusion is that Neanderthals spoke, but sounded rather different to us. Specifically, the ancient humans' lacked the "quantal vowel" sounds that underlie modern speech and which provide cues that help speakers understand one another.
By modeling the sounds that a Neanderthal larynx would have made, McCarthy's team engineered the sound of a Neanderthal saying "e." (To listen to McCarthy's simulation of a Neanderthal voice, visit: http://media.newscientist.com/data/images/ns/av/dn13672A1.wav).
In contrast to a modern human "e," the Neanderthal version lacks a quantal hallmark, which helps a listener distinguish the word "beat" from "bit," for instance. (To listen to a simulation of the modern human voice, visit: http://media.newscientist.com/data/images/ns/av/dn13672A2.wav)
McCarthy, who based his reconstructions on 50,000-year-old fossils from, aims eventually to simulate an entire Neanderthal sentence.
Neanderthals were a dead-end offshoot of the human line who inhabitedand parts of . Researchers believe they survived in Europe until the arrival of modern humans about 30,000 years ago.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Matthew Jones)