By cultivating cereals and raising livestock, our diets also changed. This altered our face structure and led to less tooth wear.
A new study suggests that developments in human speech, like the ability to make the "f" and "v" sounds, were preceded by diet-induced dental changes.
There are thousands of languages and dialects that are still spoken today, although most only have a handful of surviving speakers left. The study titled "Human sound systems are shaped by post-Neolithic changes in bite configuration", surmised that the most abundant sounds in human languages are the ones that are the easiest to produce, perceive and learn.
A group of worldwide scientists, which published their findings in Science, are contradicting the theory stating that all possible human sounds have remained the same since humans emerged 300,000 years ago, CNN reported. Based on the findings of the study and the new methods it developed, linguists can now tackle a host of unsolved questions, such as how languages actually sounded thousands of years ago.More news: 3 things Barcelona need to do against Manchester United
Populations with a long tradition and food preparation technologies were more likely to use labiodental sounds, they found. Even though hunter-gatherers were born with overbites, they would eventually shift to edge-to-edge bites, since they consumed a harder and tougher diet.
"There are dozens of superficial correlations involving language which are spurious, and linguistic behavior, such as pronunciation, doesn't fossilize", said Damián Blasi, study author and postdoctoral researcher in the University of Zurich's Comparative Linguistics Department, in a statement. Such sounds are called the labiodentals, because, to be pronounced, they require both lips and teeth.
"The set of speech sounds we use has not necessarily remained stable since the emergence of our species, but rather the enormous diversity of speech sounds that we find today is the product of a complex interplay of factors involving biological change and cultural evolution", said University of Zurich team member Steven Moran.
The findings are compelling but they're definitely not the last word on the matter. Human speech organs do not use all that much energy to begin with - not relative to movement, for instance.More news: Judge Sets Roger Stone's Trial For November 5th
It should be noted that there are more than 2,000 different sounds that exist across the world in roughly 8,000 languages and it includes ubiquitous cardinal vowels like "a" and 'i, ' as well as the rare click consonants mainly used in Southern African languages.
Elan Dresher, a linguist at the University of Toronto who was not involved in the study, commended testing Hockett's theory, but said the research could be fine-tuned by looking at historical reconstructions of languages, rather than using language databases to make comparisons. In the future, the researchers believe that their method could be used to reconstruct how ancient written languages were spoken aloud.
"Our results shed light on complex causal links between cultural practices, human biology and language", Dr Balthasar Bickel, from the University of Zurich, said.More news: World shocked amid right-wing terror attacks on mosques