Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Cold weather speak
Question: Hi,

I happened to watch a Scandinavian movie with subtitles and had to remark to an Alaskan friend that it was not a particularly nice language to listen to compared to the Romance languages. He mentioned that when he was out in far northern Alaska for several days without benefit of a cabin to warm up in, he noticed that English speakers began to speak a lot farther back in their throats, becoming similar to Inuit-type voicing. Makes sense in a way that one's mouth doesn't open as far (thus letting cold air in), and the mouth doesn't have to contort as much to speak. Just curious if you have any thoughts.

Thank you!
Reply: It's hard to say just what factors contribute to the impression you write about. Certainly the high frequency of back consonants, i.e., velars, uvulars, and pharyngeals, as well as consonant clusters might be involved. But then those sorts of consonants are also common in the Semitic languages of the Middle East and North Africa. And then there are cold region languages like Finnish that don't fit this description at all. The correlation is very impressionistic and difficult to pin down so that it can be defined and tested.
Reply From: Herbert Frederic Stahlke      click here to access email
 
Date: 04-Mar-2014
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Cold weather speak    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (04-Mar-2014)

Back to Most Recent Questions