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Are bidirectional lungs essential for human speech?

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Are bidirectional lungs essential for human speech?

Postby NMLevesque » Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:53 pm

I've been doing some research on avian respiration and their fancy unidirectional lungs (air flows in one direction through the lungs, thanks in part to supplementary air sacs), and wondered what effect having a similar system, or really any sort of unidirectional lungs, would have on human speech. As far as I know we have somewhat more precise control over our 'breath' than chimps, and due to certain morphological differences are better able to, for lack of a better term, enunciate. So I would imagine any change to our respiratory system would affect our ability to speak. Then again, certain bird species seem to be quite good at mimicking the sound of human speech, such as parrots. So I would also imagine that it's possible for organisms with unidirectional lungs to produce enough complex sounds to sustain a language at least at complicated as human ones, under certain conditions (with the aid of other structures).

In any case this is for a work of fiction so it doesn't need to be 100% concrete or airtight, so to speak, just plausible or not plausible. Any details would be appreciated, thanks!
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Postby JackBean » Wed Nov 20, 2013 7:22 pm

1) sound is made in vocal cords, not in lungs
2) I'd call (if at all) rather bird lungs as bidirectional and mammal lungs as unidirectional
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Re:

Postby NMLevesque » Wed Nov 20, 2013 10:10 pm

JackBean wrote:1) sound is made in vocal cords, not in lungs


Yes sound is made in the vocal cords, which are parts of the larynx...by vibrating air expelled from the lungs. Sound can also be made by the esophagus, which is known as esophageal speech, which is an alternative to using an electrolarynx for person's without a larynx. So vocal cords aren't even technically required for speech. Getting back to the point however, as I mentioned from my reading we can more precisely control our breath which may, among other morphological differences, enable us to make sounds that our closest living relatives (chimpanzees) can't. So my question is directed towards the role of the lungs in speech, specifically fine control over our 'breath', and is not predicated on the notion that we make sounds in our lungs.

JackBean wrote:2) I'd call (if at all) rather bird lungs as bidirectional and mammal lungs as unidirectional


Why? Mammalian lungs are bidirectional because air flows in two directions, one during inhalation, and another during exhalation. Avian lungs as I stated before are unidirectional because 'air flows in one direction', ie during both phases of respiration. For what it's worth, I didn't decide to classify them this way, biologist's did.
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Postby JackBean » Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:14 pm

As of point 2, I stand corrected.
As of point 1, I still think the lungs have not much (if anything at all) to do with speech.
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