Okay, so, I decided to give both dragons and tengu a rather complex syrinx, allowing them to mimic human speech, chainsaws, cameras shutters, ringtones, and copyrighted music with ease.

Lizardfolk, however, don't really have that luxury. They have similar vocal cords to humans, lung capacity is by default at the human peak. When combined with their mesothermic temperature regulation, it allows them to stay underwater for quite some time.

I based their appearance on the ones we saw in Overlord. Of course, I want to revamp quite a few things, starting with the removal of the obnoxious MMORPG design that makes my eyes bleed. The lizards, however, can stay. Everything else shall be purged by The Polish Toilet Spin, especially the jailbait.

I found a few low-poly 3d models, and pictures from the animu as reference.

enter image description here

Since they were the focus of only one arc; the anatomy of the lizardfolk is my pure guesswork, based on the anime and the wiki page. They seem to closely resemble both armadillo lizards and the Varanus salvator, I work off of that.

The snout is elongated, most of the serrated teeth inside are obscured. They can probably dislocate their jaws like a Varanus salvator but choose not to do it because it's kinda scary/funny, plus they can cut up food into small enough pieces to make that unnecessary. The ear is most likely sealed/hidden as well.

Their tounges should be human-like since we didn't see any lizardman flicking them to smell. Their smell probably works like that of dogs, since the lizardfolk respiratory system is basically identical to the mammalian version.

Needless to say, their scutes and osteoderms make the upper half of the head quite rigid, and there aren't any muscles, except for the jaws', in the lower. Lizardfolk can still seal off their noses with the muscles, right next to the opening of the cavity.

The average height is 185-190 cm, and the weight 100 kg for an adult male.

So, with all that out of the way, I was wondering what restrictions would the lizardfolk's IPA chart have, compared to humans'. In layman terms, which sounds would they be unable to make?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "They have similar vocal cords to humans": that is the most irrelevant aspect. Humans can speak with almost perfect intelligibility without vibrating the vocal chords: it's called whispering. There are important great languages, such as Mandarin Chinese, which don't even distinguish between voiced and unvoiced consonants. That's why in Pinyin pairs like p/b, k/g and t/d (which represent a distinction of voiceless vs. voiced in European languages) have been repurposed to represent a distinction of aspiration -- p is /pʰ/ while b is plain /p/ etc. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 28, 2020 at 15:11

4 Answers 4


Likely "o", "oo" and "u" sounds

Your lizardfolk's anatomy with elongated snouts likely won't give them cheeks to properly pronounce "o" and "u" like sounds.

They may be able to somewhat compensate for this by forming their lips or using other techniques.

If they don't have the proper lip control, they may also be unable to properly pronounce "p", "b" and "f" sounds

Really, try to emulate their speech in front of the mirror. Try not using your cheeks and/or reduce the use of your lips. This exercise may also help you come up with a plausible accent for when the lizardmen speak "humantongue".

  • $\begingroup$ since look like you are knowledgeable about this thing, do you know the name for this specific kind of study? i try to find some good source regarding animals phonetic alphabet base of their biology or anatomy. but biology SE shut my question down. though i found one regarding monkey from other site within minute i ask though, but thats all i got. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Jul 28, 2020 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ or to get what i mean, it simply what mephistopheles ask like the IPA chart thing but for animals. my english is not good so im not sure phonetic is a good word for it. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Jul 28, 2020 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ I'm by no means an expert in phonetics or IPA - however, I have learned a thing or two about facial anatomy and facial musculature, plus I worked from logic and a bit of animal anatomy. The thing with elongated snouts is that they are mostly built for biting, not for talking. Most "snouty" animals have little lip or cheek control, and also gradually tend to lose the ability to create suction with their mouths (as is the case for dogs) - provided they are evolved to have a need for suckling. $\endgroup$
    – Tylon Foxx
    Jul 28, 2020 at 13:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ... On the other hand I also considered phenomena like huskies that had learned to say some human words like "I love you" The breed of dog does have some degree of lip and cheek control for howling (a "wuuuuuuu" sound). Lizards have much less in the way of cheek musculature dedicated to shaping the mouth, and don't really have what you'd think of as flexible lips. $\endgroup$
    – Tylon Foxx
    Jul 28, 2020 at 13:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH "Their tounges should be human-like since we didn't see any lizardman flicking them to smell. Their smell probably works like that of dogs, since the lizardfolk respiratory system is basically identical to the mammalian version." $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2020 at 13:54

Of course, the technically correct answer is that the lizards will have trouble trying to duplicate just about all human phonemes. IPA is not supposed to be an inventory of all the sounds which can be made by a phonatory apparatus, not even of all the sounds which can be made by humans: it includes only those sounds which are made by humans and are actually used in normal speech in some language somewhere.

It would be a very improbable coincindence if the lizard larynx, pharynx, uvula, glottis, palate, mouth, tongue and teeth would have happened to be just right for them to make human sounds.

But this is not interesting, isn't it? So let's assume an improbable lizard which, while remaining a lizard, has a phonatory apparatus as close to human as imaginable.

  • Lizards don't have lips, so the labials are out: no /p/, /b/, /m/, /f/, /v/, and such; and of course no /w/. For the same reason, rounded vowels are out: no /o/, /u/, /œ/, /y/ and such.

  • Humans are among the few animals in being able to blow air through the mouth and nose at the same time; unless the lizards have somehow developed the same ability, nasal vowels are also out: no /ɑ̃/, /ẽ/, /õ/ and so on.

  • In humans, the mouth is an opening at the front of the buccal cavity; in lizards, the mouth goes all around the buccal cavity. I would say that the lizards will have trouble with the laterals (/l/ and such), some forms of /r/ and most clicks.

For a fictional impression of how a lizard would sound speaking English, check out Lawrence the friendly grik from Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen:

“This ’ill not ’urk,” he said at last. “Us see too ’any shiksaks. They are here in ... lots. Us take too long to go. Only thing to do, gals get in trees, ’ig, tall trees. Us try to de’end gals as long as us can. ’Orget ’oat. It no good. Us get gals in trees.”

(Note that all labials are replaced with a glottal stop. For obvious reasons, Lawrence is shown as being able to pronounce /l/ and the English rhotic /ɹ/, or else his speech would not have been understood...)


TL;DR: [ʙ] will probably be impossible, and [ɸ] and [β] might be difficult. More importantly, [f], [v], [θ], and [ð] may be possible but dangerous because of the lizards’ sharp teeth.

Let’s consider each of the different categories of the IPA consonant chart:

enter image description here

  • Bilabial: human lips are very fleshy compared to lizard lips and therefore easier to vibrate. For this reason, your lizardmen might not be able to pronounce the trill [ʙ], and perhaps not even [ɸ] or [β] due to their lips not being soft enough.
  • Labiodental: despite being able to produce labiodental consonants, your lizardmen might refrain from doing so because they have sharp teeth (and pressing them against their lips - if they even have any - could cut them). Thus, [f] and [v] might be off limits.
  • Dental: again, [θ] and [ð] could be off-limits because they don’t want to cut their tongues on their teeth.
  • Alveolar: these should be fine, since they just involve touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth (at the alveolar ridge). However, they might sound different than the human versions of these consonants depending on the shape of the lizard’s tongue, e.g. if it is forked, more dry, or more leathery than a human tongue.
  • Post-alveolar: probably the same issues as the alveolar. Because the consonants [ʃ] and [ʒ] involve air flowing around the thick body of the human tongue, a thinner lizard-like tongue might significantly change the sound so that [ʃ] sounds “wispier” than an English “sh”.
  • Retroflex: also safe, for the same reason as the alveolar consonants, but they may have a unique timbre. (By the way, I think this is my favorite class of consonants. They sound really cool.)
  • Palatal: also probably unaffected.
  • Velar: these consonants depend on the thick body of the human tongue, so consonants like [ŋ] or [g] could be affected if your lizard has a thick tongue. However, you mentioned in the question that they have human-like tongues, so it’s probably fine.
  • Uvular: Does a lizardman have a uvula? If so, this category should be fine.
  • Pharyngeal/glottal: Probably unaffected by the lizardman’s distinct head structure, since these consonants are pronounced in the throat.

The most important points are probably that the lizards will avoid [f], [v], [θ], and [ð], not because they’re impossible, but because a sharp-toothed lizard runs the risk of cutting his tongue or lips by pronouncing them. They could replace these consonants with “windier” or “hissier” variants pronounced by putting the teeth close to the lips or tongue without touching. They might also replace these consonants with similar-sounding “throatier” alternatives like [x]. This could give the lizardmen an accent that sounds a bit like German or Arabic (which have more throaty consonants than English, Spanish, and French).

You also mentioned that the lizards have the ability to muscularly seal their nasal passages. Depending on what kinds of muscles/how many muscles are involved, they may be able to produce different categories of nasal consonants that humans cannot make. Greater nasal control will also greatly increase the range of vowels available.

  • $\begingroup$ Just for reverence there's some suggestion that humans couldn't produce [f] and [v] until relatively recently because the mandible wasn't small and mobile enough to pull it off. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2020 at 1:49

Here's a suggestion: look at ventriloquists and see what they can do, and you can even try it yourself simply by keeping your mouth slightly open, not moving your lips at all, so you're entirely reliant on your tongue and internal changes in the airway to make sounds.

If you restrict yourself to the IPA chart (so sounds humans use), this is what's possible:

All bilabials, labio-dentals, labial-velars and labial-palatals are out: no p, b, m, f, v, or w (or other consonants that sound something like them).

...and that's about it for the consonants.

For vowels, all the rounded ones are out because of the immobile lips, but all that means is that they might sound like they had a slight accent to some people. In fact, except for [u] and [o], they could be perfectly indistinguishable from General American.

In other erds they could ronounce this sentence I wrote trying to reroduce the uh-ay I'n skeaking it aloud as I tyke it on the key'oard.

You might have trouble understanding the previous sentence reading it, but if you heard me speak it aloud, you'd have no such trouble.

If they have a longer, more flexible tongue with a larger cavity given the length of their jaws, they might manage to produce sounds humans can't simply by creating positions impossible for humans to achieved, but that aside, their IPA would be essentially identical to ours except for the changes I noted.


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