1. Freshpage

    Freshpage Member

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    Describing how language sounds

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Freshpage, Aug 27, 2020.

    I'm currently working building my fantasy setting for my novel and am struggling with the following: within my world will be different languages. I won't necessarily make the main characters speak all these languages but what i do want to do is have a way to describe how they sound. I'm searching for different ways that a language can sound to someone who doesn't speak it, depending on the language ofcourse.
    I know i can use these:
    -slurring
    -guttural
    -melodious

    What are some other possible ways to describe the sound of a language?
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    When I lived in Berlin, Germany, just months after the fall of the Wall, I made friends from what was still East Berlin for all intents and purposes. For them, the sound of English was all the N's they heard. "Your language is like nye, nye, nye, nye, nye..."

    Russian, to my ears, sounds much like a Romance language in the depth and roundness of the vowels. They're deep and smooth, like they are in Spanish.

    Unless your Spanish is from certain parts of Spain, of course, where what my Caribbean ears hear is a stream of sh-sh-th-th-sh-sh.

    Or maybe you're from Argentina or Uruguay, with all that lovely Zha Zha Gabor zh-zh-sh-sh sound.

    Or maybe you don't speak Spanish so these differences escape you.

    How a language sounds is going to have as much to do with the nature of the ear that listens as it does with the voice that speaks.
     
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  3. Freshpage

    Freshpage Member

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    Thanks for the input! that already gives me a bit more to play with actually. I speak a few languages myself; and can understand a few more without being able to speak them. Some of the ones you describe sound familiar to me, and some, as a native Dutch speaker, i would probably interpret very differently than you. I hadn't thought about that but that's definitely true.
     
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  4. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    To me, German sounds sharp and aggressive, as if the speaker is barking orders, demanding obedience. French sounds mellow and laid-back as if the speaker is making a poor excuse for his failings and implying the issue at hand is of little importance.
     
  5. IHaveNoName

    IHaveNoName Senior Member Community Volunteer

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    When I first started watching Chinese anime, the speakers sounded like they had a mouthful of cotton (especially compared to Japanese, which is very staccato) - lot of "s" and "sh" and soft "ch" sounds. German sounds like someone talking with a throatful of phlegm.

    Also, watching foreign language TV shows can give you a good impression of how they all sound. Netflix has a ton of them. I've been working my way through the Korean shows lately. :)

    Oh, yeah - instead of describing the language itself, describe how the words sound - clipped consonants, rounded vowels, long, drawn-out words, etc. Take, for example, all the different "Englishes" - American, Canadian, British, Aussie, Carribean, etc. We may say the same words, but they don't sound the same.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2020
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  6. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Senior Member

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    Perhaps this is not what you are looking for, but from a certain angle, you can say if the people's lifestyle is reflected in their language. For example, I kind of think Italian happy-go-lucky attitude is felt or somehow reflected in their language when they speak.
     
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