Research and Publications - Department of Modern Languages and Classics

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    Join or die: How deontological moral intuitions complicate cooperation amid the COVID-19 pandemic
    (Sage, 2023) Del Ponte, Alessandro; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Tackling COVID-19 requires universal collective action: everyone must play their part to reduce the spread of the virus and quell the pandemic. Yet, some people obstinately refuse to cooperate, irrespective of the consequences for themselves and others. In this note, I illustrate a key element of human psychology that hampers cooperation amid the pandemic: deontological moral intuitions. Deontological morality prescribes that moral taboos must be followed no matter the consequences. This means that people who consider Covid vaccines a moral taboo are prepared to suffer virtually any consequence rather than take the vaccine. I discuss the evolutionary basis of deontological intuitions, their implications for cooperation, and consider possible solutions. In conclusion, although not always harmful, deontological moral intuitions against Covid measures -and vaccines in particular- are a major obstacle that stands in the way of successful collective action during the pandemic.
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    Evidence of a Vocalic Proto-System in the Baboon (Papio papio) Suggests Pre-Hominin Speech Precursors
    (PLOS, 2017) Boe, Louis-Jean; Berthommier, Frederic; Legou, Thierry; Captier, Guillaume; Kemp, Caralyn; Sawallis, Thomas R.; Becker, Yannick; Rey, Arnaud; Fagot, Joel; UDICE-French Research Universities; Communaute Universite Grenoble Alpes; Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble; Universite Grenoble Alpes (UGA); Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS); Aix-Marseille Universite; Universite de Montpellier; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Language is a distinguishing characteristic of our species, and the course of its evolution is one of the hardest problems in science. It has long been generally considered that human speech requires a low larynx, and that the high larynx of nonhuman primates should preclude their producing the vowel systems universally found in human language. Examining the vocalizations through acoustic analyses, tongue anatomy, and modeling of acoustic potential, we found that baboons (Papio papio) produce sounds sharing the F1/F2 formant structure of the human [i o a e u] vowels, and that similarly with humans those vocalic qualities are organized as a system on two acoustic-anatomic axes. This confirms that hominoids can produce contrasting vowel qualities despite a high larynx. It suggests that spoken languages evolved from ancient articulatory skills already present in our last common ancestor with Cercopithecoidea, about 25 MYA.