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Study Finds Similarity in Sounds, Words Across Languages

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By    |   Monday, 12 Sep 2016 09:04 PM

Humans might be speaking the same language – no matter where they live, new research suggests.

Findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found for basic concepts – like body parts, family relationships or aspects of the natural world – there are common sounds.

"These sound symbolic patterns show up again and again across the world, independent of the geographical dispersal of humans and independent of language lineage," Morten Christiansen, professor of psychology and director of Cornell's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, where the research was conducted, told the Telegraph of Britain.

"There does seem to be something about the human condition that leads to these patterns. We don't know what it is, but we know it's there."

According to the Telegraph, the study found, that in most languages, the word for "nose" is likely to include the sounds "neh" or the "oo" sound, as in "ooze." And the word for "leaf" is likely to include the sounds "l," "p" or "b," while "sand" will probably use the sound "s."

"It doesn't mean all words have these sounds, but the relationship is much stronger than we'd expect by chance," Christiansen told the Telegraph.

Other words found to contain similar sounds across thousands of languages include "bite," "dog," "fish," "skin," "star," and "water." The associations were particularly strong for words that described body parts, like "knee," "bone" or "breasts."

Though researchers don't know why humans tend to use the same sounds across languages to describe basic objects and ideas, Christiansen told the Telegraph the concepts were important in all languages, and children are likely to learn these words early in life.

"Perhaps these signals help nudge kids into acquiring language," he added. "Maybe it has something to do with the human mind or brain, our ways of interacting, or signals we use when we learn or process language. That's a key question for future research."

The research team included physicists, linguists and computer scientists from the United States, Europe and South America; it analyzed 40-100 basic vocabulary words in around 3,700 languages – approximately 62 percent of the world's current languages, the Telegraph reported.

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Humans might be speaking the same language – no matter where they live, new research suggests.
language, study, science, sounds, words
355
2016-04-12
Monday, 12 Sep 2016 09:04 PM
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