3Meaning Out of the Mire

Let’s consider the physiology of the voice box, our earliest and most primary communications tool. Most people think that the purpose of the larynx is for talking — it is not. The biological function of the larynx is to protect our airway, which is why it is situated at the top of the windpipe. When you swallow properly, the larynx closes to protect the windpipe. When something goes down the wrong way, you cough. Swallow wrong and you can die. This is how the voice box developed.

The vocal cords are surprisingly small — only about a centimeter and half long — particularly small for something that can make so much noise. The larynx was formed as a survival mechanism, not a communications tool. One theory contends that ...

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