In DepthHUMAN EVOLUTION

How farming reshaped our smiles and our speech

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Science  15 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6432, pp. 1131
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6432.1131

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Summary

The switch to farming and a softer diet reshaped adults' jaws and teeth—and gave them the ability to pronounce new sounds. When humans switched to processed foods after the spread of agriculture, they put less wear and tear on their teeth. That changed the growth of their jaws, giving adults the overbites normal in children. Within a few thousand years, those slight overbites made it easy for people in farming cultures to fire off sounds like "f" and "v," opening a world of new words, according to a study. The newly favored consonants, known as labiodentals, helped spur the diversification of languages in Europe and Asia at least 4000 years ago.

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