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OT: Non-Human Phonology

From:Rob Haden <magwich78@...>
Date:Monday, May 15, 2006, 23:14
Greetings, everyone!

So it all started when I was websurfing a couple weeks ago.  I came across
a site that speculated on the possibility of intelligent dinosaurs.  The
author surmised that it wasn't an asteroid impact that caused the K-T
Extinction Event, but rather a saurian civilization.  While I don't
necessarily agree with his conclusions, his theory made me think.  What if
there had been a line of dinosaurs that evolved intelligence, 65 million
years before man walked on Earth?  What would they and their world be
like?  The premise was too good to resist, and I set about designing
the "anthroposaurs" and their society.

Pretty soon the question of language came up.  The way I see it, the
anthroposaurs would have been pretty bird-like, with feathers and probably
even beaks.  As a result, the sounds they made would have also been
similar to those of real-life birds.  That means their language would have
to be radically different from that of humans, at least when it comes to
phonology.  So I started thinking: what meaningful elements would develop
in such creatures?  While the basic mechanics would be similar to human
speech -- expelling air out of the lungs while vibrating a group of
muscles in the trachea -- having a beak would preclude most (if not all)
of the types of sounds humans can make.  Instead of distorting the airflow
through changing the shape and articulation of the mouth, other means
would have to be used.  Right now I'm thinking that pitch, frequency, and
tonality would play a much greater role in the anthroposaurs' speech.
Beyond that, I'm not quite sure yet, but suffice it to say that their
language would sound a lot more musical than any (unsung!) human tongue.

Anyways, I thought I'd submit this idea to the list to see if anyone would
be interested discussing it and what suggestions they have.  I'm not
getting into grammar or syntax -- this is purely a discussion of
phonology.  That is, what meaningful elements would be likely to arise
from creatures who are (at least) orally similar to birds?  So let the
ideas come forth! :)

- Rob


Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Peter Bleackley <peter.bleackley@...>
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