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The Sound of Difference
Why we find some languages more beautiful than others.

If we decide to investigate the mystery of a language more precisely, we can break it down into its components to determine the sequence of vowels and consonants, as well as the logic behind it. Could there be a mathematical formula that would allow us to assess a language’s aesthetic ranking, or even capture its phono-acoustic superiority for eternity? Does the ratio of vowels to consonants provide the key (and do languages with lots of vowels sound better)? Is it really just the sounds themselves that matter, regardless of meaning and eloquence of expression or, taking things a step further, from the language’s cultural context? Some people have tried to formulate rules for judging languages, but they are trapped in a dilemma: because they have to define certain criteria in order to evaluate their findings, they can never escape their own cultural programming. One example is the author Robert Beard, who dared to write a book called The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English (including, maybe not too surprisingly words like “love,” “eloquence” and “glamour”).  For Beard, “beautiful” sounds are “pleasing”: as he explains, “soft sounds are considered more beautiful than hard ones.” But eating nothing but vanilla can be boring, can’t it? Can only a “harmonious” language be beautiful? What’s wrong with aggressive talk? Some people can say very sweet things while having to use harsh sounds. Who wants a steady diet of romance, without the occasional crime novel?

Don’t judgments about a language’s beauty or ugliness generally depend on our personal experiences with people who speak it, and the associations it evokes? Brazilian Portuguese is considered especially soft and melodic – and it inspires thoughts of the bossa nova and Copacabana. Spanish calls up visions of flamenco, bullfights, and – maybe – especially attractive people, and Italian calls to mind great architecture and delicious food, wine and, yes, Mafia. Of course these are clichés, but they still play a role in our perception that we simply can’t ignore.

 

Anunțuri

Despre Claudiu Degeratu
Expert in securitate nationala, internationala, NATO, UE, aparare si studii strategice

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