10
$\begingroup$

Every single depiction out there seems to think that animal teeth and/or mouth are no problem for a perfect speech-therapist approved pronunciation.

For instance the Cat People. They never have any specific accent other than Spanish. So for our possibly speech-impaired cat people, let's assume that the vocal chords remain the same as ours. Dentition-wise, we'll go with chimpanzee teeth but tighter (an arbitrary "middle ground" between human and feline teeth), like so:

is Paint still a thing?

With such dentition and regular human lips, what sounds would be hard to pronounce? I heard that long canines give a lisp, but would people born with long teeth overcome it?

What about cat or wolf chops on an otherwise human face? (still with human vocal chords, and teeth as pictured above) More or less like this:

example

What about Lizard People? Can this jaw really produce every sound we can? Vangaa

And Bird People? Parrots are really good at imitating us, but it MUST somehow be harder to speak with a beak! Tengu GW

Unlike depicted in most media, there is no way they would be able to pronounce the same sounds as humans, is there? What would they be unable to pronounce? What could they pronounce that we can't?

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ For your final point - Parrots are really good at imitating us, and any noise they hear. So it MUST NOT be harder. They will be able to pronounce the same sounds as humans - and much much more. We know this because we can hear it from actual parrots :-) $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Nov 16 '16 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ For any canine, they'd just sound like Astro on the Jetsons or Scooby Do, so everything begins with an R. $\endgroup$ – JeffO Nov 16 '16 at 16:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Possibly helpful wrt the cat people: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/22107/… $\endgroup$ – Michele C Mar 13 '17 at 14:06
10
$\begingroup$

It is not so much the jaw with human speech as the vocal chords. Early attempts to teach chimps to speak have very limited success because chimps don't have the same vocal chords that we do. Later attempts using sign language showed that chimps were capable of very sophisticated language use (mentally) - they just needed to use words they could physically reproduce.

Several bird species (Like the Australian Lyre Bird) have an uncanny ability to mimic just about any sound, and they have teeny pointy little beaks with no teeth at all. So your articulate aliens might be using a similar mechanism.

The other important aspect is the tongue - a lot of consonants require specific tongue movements, and vowels are also created by changing the shape of the throat cavity, using the back of the tongue.

If you have ever listened to somebody who learned your native language as an adult, you will notice that they often mumble, lisp, or otherwise mangle some consonants. This is nothing to do with their physical structure - it is because they didn't HEAR those sounds during the first two years of their life.

It is entirely possible that with human vocal chords and tongue, and learning from birth, your pointy-toothed humans could sound exactly like us.

Otherwise, a few basic linguistic notes:

Lips that don't properly seal would soften sounds like "p" to "wh".

Teeth that don't fully close would soften "j" to "zh".

Someone with a natural ability to purr might be prone to rolling their "rrrrr"s.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ The ability to close your teeth does not preclude the ability to differentiate "j" from "zh"; it may make it easier, but the only thing that matters is the position of your tongue. $\endgroup$ – chepner Nov 16 '16 at 16:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.