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So I've got a werewolf species inspired by this Tumblr post. Basically, the default form is somewhere between human and wolf, but gets hairier and more muscular over the course of a month as the full moon approaches.

I really like that the post uses a modified Fossa as a wolfish/humanish base, so my werewolves will likely have a shortish snout. They'd also have thin human lips that get fuller with the moon as well.

Here's my question: would a werewolf made with thin lips, a short snout, and long canines be able to talk? Would it be hard to understand them?

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    $\begingroup$ Don't worry about communication you can always teach them sign language like shake hand and play dead. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 15 '17 at 9:42
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on the language. They can always speak a language that only has the sounds they can vocalize. You can have a language based on grunts or whistles or drum beating. Less vocal range just makes the language slower to communicate. The description doesn't tell how much the vocal apparatus would change or what their society would be, so it would really be up to you to decide whether they can speak English with accent or their own language others need to learn perfectly. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Oct 15 '17 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ Related, possibly even a duplicate: Shared language between humans and wolves - Alternatives to scent $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 15 '17 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I respectfully disagree. That question is about other types of language that a werewolf would use as a corollary to scent, and this one is what a werewolf's speech would sound like. $\endgroup$ – Lot-Of-Malarkey Oct 15 '17 at 17:42
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Assuming the rest of the vocal apparatus is human-shaped and has comparable features, yes, they would be able to talk. Vocal resonation would be quite off, and the pitch would likely be higher - rather than growl, your average werewolf would tend to yip (but that may vary as it depends on several other factors).

The lip thickness matters little; much more important is their flexibility. Harder lips would make it difficult to articulate labial consonants. Same difficulty for canines, which might impair labiodental phonation unless lips were more flexible than a human's.

How much difficult would it be to understand such a being depends on the language it spoke. Some languages might be easier than others. It could speak English in Morse code - slow, awkward, but possible.

The key thing is, neither snout nor teeth are necessarily showstoppers. A much more modern-human lookalike, the Neandertal man, might have, or have not, spoken intelligibly depending on the exact shape and location of a throat bone.

Conversely, if the internal vocal apparatus remains modern human, chances are that your werewolf will be able to speak and be understood. Problem might arise from other sources such as respiratory frequency and control; say that the werewolf needs a faster respiration to help fuel its metabolism and get rid of waste heat (maybe with the help of the tongue), this will greatly reduce its freedom of speech and/or degree of comfort in speaking, like a human with shortness of breath.

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It depends on how the werewolf in question works. If it's some sort of physical shapeshifting of a human body, then it depends on the form the body shapeshifts into, and the degree of changes that occur. If they go full wolf, probably not; if they turn into something anthropomorphic wolves akin to those commonly seen in the furry fandom (though most such werewolves possess less neotenous/cartoonish features than furries), with a wolflike head and a humanoid body, then maybe, depending on the configuration of the throat. If they're something like the Wolfman, where it's mostly just the superficial features of the face being altered, then almost certainly.

If it's some sort of spiritual possession, where the human body remains unchanged, or where the entire werewolf is spiritual in nature, then it probably varies depending on the magic involved with that setting's magic functions, and it may involve conceptual features like "animals cannot speak", so a creature that becomes animalistic cannot speak, or "spirits speak the spirit tongue", so werewolves speak the spirit tongue when in their wolf form.

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I would think that anything with a snout of any length would have a very strong accent in any human language so they could speak but would have difficulty being understood by those who were not fluent in their dialect. It would be similar to dealing with someone with a severe speak impediment. The exact impediment would depend on a number of factors, chiefly:

  • vocal cord length
  • tongue length and dexterity
  • bite pressure (because it affects jaw flexibility)
  • the position and length of the animals' teeth, not only the canines although they're likely to be the most important
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