Vowels, Consonants, Climate

I just love National Public Radio! It constantly causes me to look at the world through a whole new lens. This story, in particular, almost made me late for work because I refused to get out of my car until I’d heard the whole thing. Language lover that I am, now I’m even more focused on the sounds that we humans produce because of what I’ve learned from this report.

It seems that recently many linguists have developed a theory that the languages that have evolved over time are influenced by the climate in which one lives. It seems that the sounds of consonants are much easier to hear in open, arid, and temperate terrain. On the other hand, those consonants become muffled in humid areas with a lot of dense vegetation.

What they seem to be finding is that the more tropical the climate, the more vowel-heavy the language tends to be. Granted, this is a highly simplistic conclusion, and requires much more study. Obviously there are many factors that influence language over the centuries. But it’s still a very fascinating proposition.

They’ve noted that this theory works with birdsong as well. Many tropical birds have more vowel-rich songs, because succeeding generations imitate what they’re able to hear, and if the consonants get muffled, they leave them off.

I look forward to hearing more about this as they study it in more depth. In the meantime, I will just luxuriate in the waters of this brand new perspective. Care to join me?

When it's this freakin' humid, even the consonants can't be bothered to move.
When it’s this freakin’ humid, even the consonants can’t be bothered to move.

11 thoughts on “Vowels, Consonants, Climate

      1. lyn sutton

        Turned on the dehumidifier… I tried to say…oy it’s so humid here even my keys are muffled.
        I know when it’s humid I tend to move slower, get sluggish and my tongue gets lazy.

  1. NPR rocks! And recently they had another story of a study on the Australian accent. Among other things, the fact that Aussies have always enjoyed drinking, and have at times (or frequently) slurred while talking has made up a portion of their accent over time!

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