Languages Are Products of Their Environments

The characteristics that make each language unique may actually be adaptations to the acoustics of different environments.

Language is a universal hallmark of humanity, but it sounds different in different parts of the world. On most Pacific islands and throughout Southeast Asia, words use more vowel sounds than consonants, and they’re spoken in simple syllables, made up of a vowel sound and a consonant or two. Meanwhile, Georgian, a language of the Caucasus Mountains, is heavy with consonants, often strung together into clusters, creating syllables too complex for many foreigners to pronounce. The physical surroundings of Georgians and Southeast Asians are just as varied as the words they use, and linguists say they’ve found a relationship between the types of sounds in a language and the climate and landscape in which it evolved.

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