Freakin’ Farmers

I spend a lot of time at tea shops and I’ve noticed that public sharing of words starting in “f” (well, certain f-words) feels more frequent today than in times past. Fantasy? Or fact?

According to How farming reshaped our smiles and our speech (Science, 15 Mar 2019, p. 1131) , f- (and v-) sounds entered into human speech after the invention of agriculture several thousand years ago. The theory is that as our food became easier to eat, evolution gave us adults with the overbites more typical of children. And, as the article says, “within a few thousand years, those slight overbites made it easy for people in farming cultures to fire off sounds like ‘f’ and ‘v'”.

See also Human sound systems are shaped by post-Neolithic changes in bite configuration, D. E. Blasi et al., Science 363, eaav3218 (2019). DOI: 10.1126/science.aav3218

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