Working on a creature with a very strange mouth. He has a vertical jaw, compared to the human horizontal, as well as they have "two" tongues, imagine a snake's forked tongues where the splitting point is inside of the throat. The tongues can extend three to four inches beyond the mouth.

Assume the everything except for the mouth and the tongues are the same in the creatures as humans.

My question is: What sounds would this jaw and tongue not allow for which are used in human speech, and what sounds could they possibly make which humans cannot make?

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    $\begingroup$ Is there a nasal cavity? $\endgroup$ – sphennings Dec 18 '17 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ This would require pretty neat simulation. Too bad it's about a decade since I remembered how to do it and knew people that did it... $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 18 '17 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings Yes, same size and proportion as a human one, sans the actual nose. They just have two holes in their face. $\endgroup$ – OneSurvivor Dec 18 '17 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot If you happen to remember, please comment it! $\endgroup$ – OneSurvivor Dec 18 '17 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ Are the two tongues independently controllable? $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 19 '17 at 1:15

S and Th are going to be problematic

The IPA describes every consonant the human head and throat is capable of making. Characters to the left of the below chart represent sounds made further forward in the mouth. Characters to the right are sounds made further back in the throat. Assuming that the rear portion of this creature's mouth are very close to a human's then the sounds on the right side of the chart should be pretty close.

Given the split tongue, this creature is going to have greater difficulty articulating sounds in the Fricative row as almost all those sounds involve some amount of air flow over the tongue. Since this creature's tongue isn't the same as a human's, we should expect a slightly different sound.

The presence of lips and nasal cavity means that Plosives and Nasal rows should still be pronoucable by this creature.

IPA Alphabet

Also, read up on formants which talk about how vowels are formed. Holy crap, human speech is specialized!

Sure, if you've got the software to simulate this, great but just looking at the IPA chart and feeling around with your own head should be a pretty good start.

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    $\begingroup$ You can definitely get a good first order approximation of the effects of a bifurcated tongue, but the effects of an entirely differently vocal tract caused by a vertically oriented jaw will be much harder to approximate. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Dec 18 '17 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings I absolutely agree. There's a ton of resonances that might appear or not appear in this case. Who knows how much of the human voice is because sound bounces off the mandible and maxilla? shrug No way to know till those bones go away. $\endgroup$ – Green Dec 18 '17 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ Harmonics are hard and sound propagation through discontinuous mediums is even harder. I'll let someone else write the model for this one :) $\endgroup$ – Green Dec 18 '17 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ According to the OP, the two tongues are independently controllable. Does this affect your answer? $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 19 '17 at 1:24
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH likely yes. I'm highly sure it would change but I don't know how. Having two tongues would very likely create sounds that normal human physiology can't produce. I don't have the acoustic model to say for sure. $\endgroup$ – Green Dec 19 '17 at 3:01

This is such a deviation from a normal human mouth that we are unable to describe what sounds can be produced without a detailed simulation of air pressure within the creature's head and neck.

Linguists that focus on the physiology of how we produce sounds for speech have a concept called places of articulation. In a nutshell this is describing the places in the vocal tract that are constricted during the production of a consonant sound. Many of these locations wouldn't exist in a vertically oriented mouth.

There are humans that have modified their tongue to be split into two halves. They can experience difficulties properly restricting air. You can read more about tongue bifurcation from a linguistics perspective here.

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    $\begingroup$ According to the OP there is not one bifurcated tongue, but two independently controllable tongues. Does this affect your answer? $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 19 '17 at 1:29
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH People with bifurcated tongues can learn to control the two halves independently. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Dec 19 '17 at 13:00

Don't forget to consider how much control is exerted over those tongues. Is it like a dog's tongue that can move backwards or a regular human tongue. I'm guessing a more prehensile tongue would have an even more alien sounding range of vowels and consonants.


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