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Neanderthal man speaks after 30,000 years

  • Story Highlights
  • Anthropologist reconstructs Neanderthal vocal tracts to simulate their voice
  • Result sounds like a part croaking frog or a human burping
  • Plan is to eventually simulate an entire Neanderthal sentence
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(CNN) -- It's been 30,000 years since Neanderthals walked the earth, but now we can hear what they sounded like, according to a Florida anthropologist.

art.neander.speak.jpg

Neanderthal man apparently sounded like a frog croaking or a human burping when talking.

Robert McCarthy of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton reconstructed Neanderthal vocal tracts to simulate their voice with a computer synthesizer.

The result is a single syllable that sounds strange and unremarkable: part croaking frog, part burping human. But McCarthy says that's because Neanderthals lacked the "quantal vowels" modern humans use.

"They would have spoken a bit differently," McCarthy said at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Ohio this month. "They wouldn't have been able to produce these quantal vowels that form the basis of spoken language."

New Scientist magazine discussed McCarthy's findings and linked to his vocal simulation on its Web site. Listen to Neanderthal man speak

McCarthy used 50,000-year-old fossils from France to make his reconstruction, New Scientist said. He plans to simulate an entire Neanderthal sentence, the magazine reported.

To reconstruct the vocal tracts, McCarthy teamed with linguist Phil Lieberman, who worked in the 1970s to deduce the dimensions of a Neanderthal larynx based on its skull. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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