Piera Filippi

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The Referential Value of Prosody: A Functional Approach to the Study of Vocal Communication in Humans and Baboons (Papio anubis)
The aim of this project is to provide evidence for the functional use of prosodic and intonational contours in human language and in the communication system of baboons (Papio anubis). We will first build a theoretical frame of study in which we will provide a new perspective on the meaning of “meaning” in terms of the functional effect of the utterances. Within this theoretical perspective, we will analyze the behavioral and physiological responses to conspecific vocalizations in baboons, and to both conspecific and baboon vocalizations in humans. Finally, within a comparative approach to human and baboon communication systems, we aim at examining the functional valence of prosodic and intonational contours in a special kind of communication, “parentese”, i.e. vocal utterances that baboon caregivers address to the juveniles. Ultimately, this research project will provide crucial insights on the emergence of human language at both a phylogenetic and an ontogenetic scale.