This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Nuts and Bolts: puffing on the hills.

Does where you live affect the language you speak?

Well, of course it does - babies surrounded by Spanish speakers aren't going to grow up speaking Swahili, are they.

But is the native language of a place affected by its geography?

One new theory suggests that it is.

The sounds in question are called ejective consonants. You don't get them in English, but they involve building up pressure in your throat and then sort of spitting it out as you speak.

Caleb Everett of Miami University has done a huge study (covering six hundred languages. Respect!) and he's discovered that people who speak languages with ejective consonants tend to live over 1500 metres above sea level. His theory is that because the air is thinner at these altitudes, producing ejective consonants is fairly easy.

The only high populated landmass where you don't find ejective consonants is the Tibetan plateau. Mr Everett suggests the lack of ejective consonants occurs because Tibetans breathe faster than other humans, so ejective consonants aren't so easy to produce.

Ejective consonants certainly sound like hard work to a lowlander like me (I live about 120m above sea level).

They do sound rather fun, though.

Word To Use Today: eject. This word comes from the Latin word jacere, to throw.


  1. Did you snap your fingers with a whip-crack motion of the wrist as you uttered: 'Rrrrrrespec!'?

    Swear down - da Pruester iz in da house fo' shizzle! Booya!

  2. I am awed and inspired by this knowledge...who'd have thunk it!? Respect to you, Pruester. I'm going to call you that from now, not really.:)

  3. I'm extremely flattered and proud to be da Pruester. It's my only claim to cool apart from being a Millwall supporter. isn't exactly the word for that, is it.

    Ah well...