by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jun 14, 2013
The sounds of different languages may have been shaped by the geography of the places where they are spoken, according to research published in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Caleb Everett from the University of Miami.
Everett compared the sounds used in about 600 languages across the world with the regions they were commonly spoken, and found a strong correlation between high altitude and spoken languages that included consonant sounds produced with an intense burst of air, called ejective consonants.
Ejectives are absent in the English language, but were found in languages spoken on, or near, five out of six major high altitude regions where people live.
The artificial Na'vi language spoken in the movie Avatar also uses ejective consonants. The relationship is difficult to explain by other factors, says the author.
"This is evidence that geography does influence phonology-the sound system of languages," explains Everett.
"Ejectives are produced by creating a pocket of air in the pharynx then compressing it. Since air pressure decreases with altitude and it takes less effort to compress less dense air, I speculate that it's easier to produce these sounds at high altitude. The results of the study suggest that ecological factors may shape the structure of language in ways that have gone unrecognized."
Everett C (2013) Evidence for Direct Geographic Influences on Linguistic Sounds: The Case of Ejectives. PLOS ONE 8(6): e65275. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065275
Public Library of Science
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|