Language Matters: Geography Matters, Too

Have you ever thought about how languages were formed, and why certain languages contain some sounds while other languages leave those sounds out completely?

There has never been a distinguishable pattern to language sounds and geography, so scientists assumed it was all random — until now (blogs.smithsonianmag.com).

There’s a type of sound in some languages called an ejective, and it involves creating a burst of air through the lips as part of the sound.  English and other European languages don’t have this sound, but you can listen to the different types of ejectives on Wikipedia.

The dark spots are the high-altitude places where languages with ejectors originated.

After studying the places where languages with ejectives are spoken, and then looking at the places of origin of those languages, scientists noticed an interesting pattern — languages with ejectives all originated at high altitudes.

The possible reason for this trend involves air pressure.  Creating an ejective sound requires effort to push the air through the mouth forcefully, and at higher altitudes the lower air pressure makes these sounds easier to create.

Do you speak a language that uses ejectives?  Are there other ways that you can think of that geography might influence the development of language?

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