What phonemes could an intelligent fox produce? This assumes that their vocal tract is the same as real life foxes. They have human intelligence and have built a civilization that has reached the pre-Industrial era.

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    $\begingroup$ All that I can read this as is someone taking "What Does the Fox Say" way too literally $\endgroup$
    – Sol
    Aug 29, 2020 at 4:42
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    $\begingroup$ Could you make the question more specific? Intelligence is a broad subject. A dog can be seen as intelligent and some humans not, while it's clear who is smarter. Is it tricks? Language? Logic skills? Also smartness doesn't mean it's useful. The smartest guman alive growing up in the jungle will not really produce a smart man for our society. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Aug 29, 2020 at 5:30
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  • $\begingroup$ Define "intelligent". I've met people who failed to perform feats of intelligence which are second nature to rats (i.e.: disabling a rattrap without getting hurt, rats only need to see one working once to figure they can throw a stick at it, but I've seen a man get hurt by rattraps multiple times in a day) and yet these people speak and rats do not. $\endgroup$ Aug 29, 2020 at 6:41
  • $\begingroup$ Has the precise level of intelligence any bearing on what phonemes can be produced? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Aug 29, 2020 at 7:24

2 Answers 2


This might sound like a ridiculous answer, but search YouTube for talking dogs. Listen to the sounds they make and how close they are to human speech and you'll get a feel for what's possible with most canines.

The real problem is lips and cheeks, the inability to shape the inside of their mouths to articulate phonemes. Vocal cords just provide the vibrations, so they'd have to rely on a limited vowel set -- /a/, /e/, /ə/, /o/, and /u/ -- and a few simulated consonants if I can presume full use of a prehensile tongue: /s/, /t/, /h/, /k/, /d/, /g/, /l/, and /j/ -- possibly /n/ and /ŋ/ if they can express sound through their nasal cavity without causing other issues like a sneezing fit, which I'm not 100% sure of.

Ventriloquists work around some of the same limitations, so you can probably use that as a starting point.


This is only a partial answer and I feel I just did some research that you could have carried out yourself.

I Googled fox vocalisations and fox sounds. I won't list the results as there are many.

My finding is that a fox's vocalisations are very similar to those of a dog or wolf.


The easiest semi-consonant sound for them to make is approximately "w" as in "woof-woof"

They could approximate the difference between "aaa" and "ooo"

The language is going to be largely tonal. Foxes are able to change the pitch of their voice considerably.

The timbre will be very important. They can make pure sounds, harsh barking sounds, growls, etc.

If you allow them to make cat-like noises such as purring (they have a similar mouth and throat anatomy) then this increases the possibilities.

Repetition as in "yip - yip - yip" is a likely feature and at the very least could be used for counting.


I imagine that tail and ear posture would be very important. They could indicate anger, fear, pleasure and so on. These could be used simultaneously with vocalisations, either to modify meaning or possibly even to change grammar.


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