Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at https://linguistlist.org/!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at webdevlinguistlist.org***

Ask a linguist - Message details


Subject: Animal Sounds Expressed in Different Cultures
Question:
Hello, my name is Naruko. I am an international student studying at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada. I would like to ask you a question that I have had for a long time since I started studying English. Why do people from different cultures express animal sounds differently? For example, you will hear ''bow wow'' or ''ruff ruff'' when a dog barks. In Japan we say ''won won''. My theory to this question is because there are certain sounds in our languages that some languages don't have. Japanese doesn't have ''r'' sound. So, we will not be able to catch the sound when we hear. I would like to know what a linguist think about this issue. I am going to have a presentation this coming Friday, so I would really appreciate if you can send me your idea as soon as possible. I will introduce it in my class.
Thank you very much.

Naruko Nishimura





Reply:
''My theory to this question is because there are certain sounds in our languages that some languages don't have. Japanese doesn't have ''r'' sound. So, we will not be able to catch the sound when we hear''

This makes it sound as if you think the dog is speaking English and Japanese people are getting it wrong!

The dog makes a sound which all of us, whatever our language, can try to imitate. Getting this right has got nothing to do with what language we speak, as we are trying to imitate an animal, which is not speaking at all.

But because we want to make animal sounds into words in our own language we try to convert the animal's sound into something that could be a word in our own language, which has to follow the sound system of that language. These words are not an imitation of the animal sound, but an approximation. The conventional dog-noise-words in English are 'ruff ruff', 'woof woof' and 'bow wow' -- all different, and all different from the conventional words in other languages. And if you say these, you wouldn't convince anyone you were a dog!

Anthea





Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta     click here to access email
Date: Nov-25-2003
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Animal Sounds Expressed in Different Cultures   Geoffrey Sampson    (Nov-26-2003)
  2. Re: Animal Sounds Expressed in Different Cultures   Joseph F Foster    (Nov-25-2003)
  3. Re: Animal Sounds Expressed in Different Cultures   James Vadenbosch    (Nov-25-2003)

Back to Recent Message