Human Conversation from the Neanderthals to Artificial Intelligence
One of The Sunday Times’ Best thought books of 2018.
“a lively, intelligent and persuasive history of speech, from first ancestral grunts to the silkily smooth-talking Alexa and Siri.” Laura Freeman, The Times
‘shift[s] our understanding & appreciation of human speech, drawing on scientific studies, theories, case studies & expert interviews, & peppered with anecdotes & observations that ensure Cox’s passion for his subject weaves through every page … ‘A brain-pleasing and entertaining read for anybody with a keen interest in human sciences and the art and function of conversation. You will thoroughly enjoy it.’ Abi Jackson, Press Association
“With cultural references ranging from Beckham to Bjork, Cox knows how to make his subject sing. And the narrative is enlivened by colourful anecdotes.” Sebastian Shakespeare, The Daily Mail
“A treat of a book exploring the nature of speech and how technology has transformed – and continues to transform – the way we speak and listen … This is an interesting and highly readable book, written with a light touch and full of overlooked ideas well worth chatting about.” Hilary Lamb, E&T Magazine
“a continually interesting and instructive account of our conversational abilities and a much needed expose of our remarkable incapacity to infer anything from each other’s talk” Harry Ritchie, The Spectator
“Cox carefully examines the physiology of the vocal apparatus and details the latest evolutionary theories of early hominid speech . . . A book giving readers much to talk about.” Booklist
“A lucid look at the science behind human communication. . . . The greatest takeaway from the book is the welcome thought that our best moments as human communicators are in ordinary conversations, “quotidian activity that allows knowledge about how to survive and thrive to be passed between us.” There’s lots to ponder in Cox’s geekily entertaining exploration of how we acquire our voices and understand those of others.” Kirkus
“Cox proves an affable guide, and his sharp history will give casual science buffs a lot to talk about.” —Publishers Weekly
“an epic and multi-stranded tale that is necessarily as much about technology and psychology as it is about biology. There is also a healthy dose of sociology here, as Cox ably and entertainingly explores the political and cultural dimensions of how we speak, from beatboxing to stammering to sounding all ‘poshy'”. Simon Ings, New Scientist
Being able to speak is what makes us human.
If you’ve ever felt the shock of listening to a recording of your own voice, you realise how important your voice is to your personal identity. We judge others – and whether we trust them – not just by their words but by the way they talk: their intonation, their pitch, their accent.
Now You’re Talking explores the full range of our voice – how we speak and how we sing; how our vocal anatomy works; what happens when things go wrong; and how technology enables us to imitate and manipulate the human voice. Trevor Cox talks to vocal coaches who help people to develop their new voice after a gender change; to record producers whose use of technology has transformed the singing voice; and to computer scientists who replicate the human voice in their development of artificial intelligence.
Beginning with the Neanderthals, Now You’re Talking takes us all the way to the digital age – with the frightening prospect that we may soon hear ‘Unexpected item in the bagging area’ more frequently than a friendly ‘Hello, how are you?’ in the street.