June 13, 2013
Geographic Context May Have Shaped Sounds Of Different Languages
Certain consonant sounds found mainly in languages spoken at high altitudes
The sounds of different languages may have been shaped by the geography of the places where they are spoken, according to research published June 5 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Caleb Everett from the University of Miami.
"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."
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