What is Joint Speech?
Joint speech is speech produced by multiple people saying the same thing at the same time. It thus includes a bunch of people praying, but also the calls of a crowd of protesters.
Is Joint Speech always spoken, or can it be song?
One of the first things we find when we examine joint speech is that the distinction between speech and song is no longer clear. Some joint speech is clearly spoken (e.g. when reciting a collective oath of allegiance, or shouting “Amen!” together). But joint speech frequently features a lot of repetition, and with that we get an enhancement of the musical elements of speech, both rhythm and melody. The English word “chant” nicely captures this ambiguity as it applies in equal measure to the calls of the political protesters and to the austere plainsong of the monks. So we will include singing Happy Birthday as well as reciting the Credo.
Why is it important?
Joint speech is so familiar, it takes a bit of effort to recognise that it constitutes a very different form of speech than “normal” conversational speech. It features in human practices accorded the highest significance by those who partake: praying, protesting, and the demonstration (or enactment) of an identity on the football terraces, these are all very important activities for those who take part in them, despite the obvious differences in their purposes.
Why did you devote this website to joint speech?
Despite its centrality to many highly valued practices, there has been very little scientific study of joint speech to date. The reasons for this are interesting in their own right, but mainly we wanted to provide a central resource for anyone interested in learning more about this rich form of speech. We believe it will ultimately prove to be an important reference point in our understanding of how speech contributed to the emergence of modern humans.
How do I learn more?
You might start by looking at some of the examples we have prepared. These illustrate some of the diversity , but also common themes, that arise when we look at joint speech. If you want to know some of the science, anthropology, or related work on the topic, head over to the documentation. If you are interested in contributing or in studying joint speech yourself, contact us at fred.cummins@ucd.ie. We maintain a sizeable archive of joint speech examples and we are always interested in collaboration and conversation.
Who are you?
This Joint Speech research is led by Dr. Fred Cummins at University College Dublin.