Climate Affects Language

I am sure we have all wondered why languages are different from region to region. The spoken word, although complex and diverse, is enticing. We all muse about why we do not communicate in a universal form. Well, the obvious reasons pertain to culture in different regions of the world. This is a well-known observation. That is not the only reason. There is another idea, and it may surprise you.

Did you know that climate affects language development? Not only does culture set the stage for the characteristics of our familiar speech; the weather has a great impact as well. It seems that those from humid areas of the world have a completely different form and tonality of language than those from arid or cold regions.

What does it mean?

Let me explain. It seems that vocal sounds are consistent among groups of the same weather region. Caleb Everett, linguist from the University of Miami (UM), discovered that languages that use more than three tones for contrast are located in humid regions of the world. Languages in warm regions tend to be smoother in tonality. Simple forms are, by contrast, found in dry or frigid areas. You may notice speech in cold areas being short and sharp, with a bit of jittering inflection on the last syllable.

“This completely changes the way we see the evolution of language,” says Everett.

Does the climate, in effect, mold the way we learn to speak over time? Caleb Everett seems to think this is true.

Looking Deeper

Upon further examination, we have other ideas that could be at play here. There could be unconscious reasons why languages form as they do, including health reasons. Evidence has shown that inhaling dry air can cause dehydration of the larynx. Cold air can also cause issues of the throat. It is possible that ancient civilizations formed their languages to avoid speaking for long periods of time in these harsh conditions. The shorter the words and sentences, the less they had to open their mouths. On the other hand, languages developing in humid regions would be long-winded and carefree, creating diverse tonality and pitch.



Seems silly doesn’t it? Thing is, this could be one of the most important reasons for language variances.

Data

The only test conducted was basic data retrieval in various regions of the world. Out of 3,700 languages, there are over 600 languages with complex form. Most of these complex languages originated in tropical regions like Southeast Asia and Africa. Complex forms were also found in areas of North America, the Amazon and New Guinea. These data can be found in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Here you can find ample evidence of how climate influences the development of language.



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Sherrie

Sherrie

Sherrie is a freelance writer and artist with over 10 years of experience. She spends most of her time giving life to the renegade thoughts. As the words erupt and form new life, she knows that she is yet again free from the nagging persistence of her muse. She is a mother of three and a lifetime fan of the thought-provoking and questionable aspects of the universe.