I have a race of humanoid species, who, like elves, have better senses than humans. They live in mountains and hills. They look like humans but have longer faces, smaller eyes and are most famous for their long noses (like noses between 5-15cm). Then I wondered, if their long noses would have an effect on the sound of their voices? I know this is a far-fetched question, but could anyone help me with this one? BTW: sorry for bad english. Not native speaker. Thanks a lot!

  • $\begingroup$ I think it depends if their naval cavities are elongated as well or not $\endgroup$ – Robin Apr 26 '18 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Robin they probably would be. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Apr 26 '18 at 10:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Robin I hope you meant to say "nasal." Otherwise, there are holes in your fleet. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 26 '18 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I did, typo :p $\endgroup$ – Robin Apr 26 '18 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ Your english was flawless in this question at least - no need for an apology! $\endgroup$ – bendl Apr 26 '18 at 17:23

They will definitely sound different

Most of human speech is made through changing the shape and spatial relationships between the lips, teeth, tongue, oral cavity and throat. Changes to the shape and materials of any of these structures will have an influence on the sounds that can be made. The IPA chart (pdf) shows many of the sounds that a human being can make, definitely not all sounds. You'll notice for the consonants that the ones to the left are made further forward in your throat while the ones to the right are made further back in the throat.

If your creature lacks or alters any of these vocal structures it will sound different.

For example, if the nose somehow makes the dog people's lips more rigid or so they can't be controlled at all, then they won't be able to pronounce the /p/ or /b/ sounds since those require lips to form.

The sounds of their vowels will also change since there's now a much larger resonator cavity in their skulls compared to the nasal cavity in humans. Generally, the tones would be lower because big resonators work best with low frequency sound.

A really helpful exercise would be to make lots of the consonants and vowels but pay close attention to how your mouth and throat move when you make different sounds. It will help you a lot with trying to imagine what sounds these creatures can make. Or, you can go to the Pink Trombone website (SFW, but creepy) and play around there.

Without more specific geometry it's just not possible to figure out what the exact sounds will be.

General Guidelines

  1. Bigger cavities create deeper notes.
  2. Removing or altering vocal structure compared to a human will alter the creature's ability to make those sounds. Experiment with the IPA chart to compare what the creature looks like vs human anatomy then adapt from there.
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    $\begingroup$ Voiceless vowels are a real thing. For a trivial example,consider whispered speech; when whispering, all phonemes are pronounced voiceless, that is, without the vibration of the vocal chords. And you absolutely cannot pronounce the cardinal vowels with your lips closed: the cardinal vowel are oral vowels, and with the lips closed you can only make nasal sounds. Try recording yourself and listen to the recording. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 26 '18 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Samuel That's amazing! I've wanted something like that forever! I want to do that but for arbitrary vocal structures, not just human. $\endgroup$ – Green Apr 26 '18 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Green Well, you're a strange individual. It's interesting for sure, but I could have gone without knowing about it. I figured I should inflict that on the rest of you ;) You might be able to get a version of the code. I'm not sure how much it's relating the visual representation with the audio output. I doubt it's calculating based on the shape as drawn. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Apr 26 '18 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Samuel bows I've never ever claimed to be normal. I was thinking about it in terms of figuring out what dinosaurs actually sounded like (or what they could have sounded like. Their bodies may have been capable of making lots of sounds but just didn't, for whatever reason.) $\endgroup$ – Green Apr 26 '18 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ The IPA chart does not "show all the sounds that a human being can make". It contains only those phonemes used by humans in normal speech in some language. For example, it cannot represent whistling, or the sound young boys make to imitate breaking wind; moreover, humans can produce sound without using the speech apparatus, for example by clapping their hands or by snapping their fingers. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 26 '18 at 20:44

The effect will be rather small. The sounds of human speech are formed in the oral cavity and their frequency is determined by the tension and length of the vocal chords.

Changing the nose length will not affect this system very much. In particular, they will be able to form the usual phonemes of human speech and they'll be understandable by us.

Trained singer make use of all possible resonators in their body, and the bigger noses make different resonators from the normal human noses, so one can expect some difference in the "colouring" of the sounds we make, and the difference will be biggest for singers.


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