Vocal Behaviour and the Origins of Speech

  • John Antony Michael Martin
Part of the Disorders of Human Communication book series (DISORDERS, volume 4)


The newborn child’s first spontaneous behaviour is heard rather than seen, and the cry is eagerly awaited as an indicator of the onset of normal respiration and of independent existence. Once established the cry is such a commonplace behaviour it is easily dismissed as being unimportant, and not worthy of serious study. It has however attracted a certain amount of interest by for instance Lynip (1951) and Eisenson, Auer, and Irwin (1963). Wasz-Höckert and his colleagues (1968) have also studied the features of the cry in certain disorders such as brain-damage at birth, and chromosomal abnormalities resulting in particular clinical states such as the “cri du chat” syndrome. Wolff (1969) studied the cry of children during the first six months of life, motivated by his interest in the development of the various forms of human affective expression. He identified four main types of cry. The most frequently occurring “basic” cry has a predominant fundamental frequency of 350–400 Hz and is often called the hunger cry, though Wolff considers that this term is misleading if it is used to imply a causal connection between hunger and a particular pattern of crying. Other cries are the “mad” or angry cry, and the cry caused by pain. This latter is characterized by a sudden onset of loud crying without any preliminary fussing, an initial long cry lasting 3–4 seconds, and a subsequent long period of breath-holding in the expiratory phase before the next cry. He concluded that “the range of causal conditions sufficient to provoke crying in the neonate is greater than has been taken for granted, and that very early in development the infant cries in response to environmental conditions which should be viewed as having a global psychological significance since they cannot be analyzed in physical—physiological terms alone” (Wolff, 1969, p. 108, his italics).


Vocal Behaviour Pitch Contour Pitch Change Vocal Activity Tonal Contour 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Antony Michael Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Phonetics and LinguisticsUniversity CollegeLondonGreat Britain

Personalised recommendations