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The design of an animal's body and head are different than that of a human, so I am wondering what things I could modify about a dragon or humanoid animal in order to allow it to speak with a normal voice. Use a wolf head as a standard for anatomy in the answers.

Sorry if my wording is wrong, I am not very good at writing down my ideas to be understandable.

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  • $\begingroup$ Related and. $\endgroup$ Jun 24, 2021 at 0:42
  • $\begingroup$ There's another Q/A somewhere that discusses in somewhat more detail what phonemes e.g. a wolf might be able to produce with minimal or no modification. Short version: if they don't need to speak specific, extant human languages, the answer (to "what do I need to change") may well be "nothing". $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Jun 24, 2021 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure if it was mentioned, but what if they're like lyrebirds and produce pretty much all their sounds in the syrinx? $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2021 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ They could have a syrinx, though that would be weird for a mammal (yes, dragons in my setting are mammals). $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2021 at 18:49

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First, see this question, and in particular, this answer to the same, which discuss what's already possible without modifications.

From that, we can conclude that you're actually in decent shape already as far as vowels. Your problem is consonants, and the main issue there is lips.

That said... what is your goal? If you just want them to be able to "talk", you might be better off "designing" a language that they can speak without modification. I use quotes because you don't need to actually design a language, just take it as given that they aren't speaking English and apply Translation Convention (this is the approach I'm using in my own book). This can be especially effective for dragons, as puny humans that can't understand dragon speech are likely to be flame-broiled and eaten 🙂. (Read: dragons can probably get away with expecting humans to learn their natural tongue.)

If you need them to speak actual extant human languages (e.g. English), you'll likely, as suggested by the previously-cited answer, get the most bang for your buck by giving them more mobile lips. You may want to look at horses, in particular, for inspiration, as horses have very mobile lips (even capable of untying knots with their mouths!) and are capable of making at least some of the consonants that are problematic for wolves as they exist in our world.

Another point: you said "normal voice". See this answer and its comments for another point of consideration. I'm not well versed in the required anatomical changes, although there is sufficient variation among humans to suggest that whatever changes needed are not implausible. Too, size seems to be a factor, and if your critters are roughly human-sized, there's a good chance there is not any great difficulty in hand-waving an appropriate vocal tract. (Also, as these are internal changes, you shouldn't need to worry too much about them unless you're planning on writing an extremely detailed biological treatise.)

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  • $\begingroup$ The language that my dragons use has lots of V, T, and K sounds in it, so lips would be useful. A deep voice wouldn't require much explanation, Thanks for the anwer. $\endgroup$ Jun 24, 2021 at 17:17

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