About sounding good.

This forum is for constructed languages, both those invented by UniLang members and those already existing.

Moderators: Ashucky, Dormouse559

Cubix
Posts: 22
Joined: 2016-06-09, 17:29
Gender: male
Country: FR France (France)

About sounding good.

Postby Cubix » 2016-07-09, 9:32

Hey, I wonder what makes a language sound good. For instance, why do Spanish and Italian sound very good but German (and some other germanic languages) doesn't ? Is it because of the accent or something else ?

I need answers since I want to make my conlang sound as good as possible.
Langue maternelle : [flag=]fr[/flag]
Fluently spoken : [flag=]en[/flag]
Ich kann ein bisschen sprechen : [flag=]de[/flag]
Kaj esperanto mojosas ! [flag=]eo[/flag]
Et ju posam strugisa lingo : Bonestalingu. And I have a conlang : Bonestalingu.

Atluk
Posts: 47
Joined: 2016-06-02, 0:03
Real Name: I'm not telling you.
Location: South Carolina
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Atluk » 2016-07-09, 12:27

Sound is relative. What sounds good to you may sound ugly to someone else.

I personally like the way Spanish sounds, for example, but I've read that some other people think it souds ugly.

The same is true with German. It sounds harsh to me and does not interest me, but there are people that think it sounds pretty. I have a friend who loves German because it sounds strong and cool to him.

Create a language that sounds nice to you, don't worry about what others say unless what they are saying can help improve your conlang.

User avatar
Levike
Posts: 6153
Joined: 2013-04-22, 19:26
Real Name: Levi
Gender: male
Location: Budapest
Country: HU Hungary (Magyarország)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Levike » 2016-07-09, 13:28

Cubix wrote:For instance, why do Spanish and Italian sound very good but German (and some other germanic languages) doesn't?

Spanish and Italian (or Greek and Finnish) have a lot of vowels, but German (or Russian) not that much.
I'm guessing for most people having many consonants in a word is a turn off.

+ It's also a matter of taste. I for example think the above languages sound monotonous, therefore often boring.

Personally what I find ugly is when a language has tones or ugly consonants that stick out.
For example the "g" in Dutch.
Nem egy nap alatt épült Buda vára.

User avatar
Dormouse559
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 6581
Joined: 2010-05-30, 0:06
Real Name: Matthew
Gender: male
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Dormouse559 » 2016-07-09, 17:41

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Whether you find a language attractive or unattractive says more about you and your culture than about the language itself.
N'hésite pas à corriger mes erreurs.

uzferry

Re: About sounding good.

Postby uzferry » 2016-07-09, 19:52

While I do agree that different people have different preferences, I don't believe this "everything is absolutely relative" idea. I think that just like there is music that is considered to be beautiful by most and is regarded as classic, while some random static noise objectively sucks, there are languages that have a greater chance to sound better to a random person than other languages.
That being said, I don't really know the answer to your question. Maybe it has to do something with proportions, lengths etc. I dunno.

User avatar
Dormouse559
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 6581
Joined: 2010-05-30, 0:06
Real Name: Matthew
Gender: male
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Dormouse559 » 2016-07-09, 20:28

uzferry wrote:I think that just like there is music that is considered to be beautiful by most and is regarded as classic, while some random static noise objectively sucks
Neither of these statements helps your argument in my view.

"Classic" and "beautiful" aren't objective terms by any means. Their meaning is heavily dependent on culture. Maybe Beethoven's symphonies are generally considered beautiful from an affluent Western point of view. But change the perspective at all (geographic location, time period, artistic movement, class, etc.) and they may not be.

And it's apples and oranges to use random static in your analogy. Languages are by definition not equivalent to random static, so even if we assume a thing can "objectively suck", a language won't ever reach that point.
N'hésite pas à corriger mes erreurs.

User avatar
Levike
Posts: 6153
Joined: 2013-04-22, 19:26
Real Name: Levi
Gender: male
Location: Budapest
Country: HU Hungary (Magyarország)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Levike » 2016-07-09, 20:44

I'm with uzferry on this.

It's the same as saying stuff like "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" or "everyone is beautiful in their own way".
It is relative and all... to a certain degree.

Come on, Italian's always going to be considered the beautiful one when compared to Russian.
Nem egy nap alatt épült Buda vára.

User avatar
Dormouse559
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 6581
Joined: 2010-05-30, 0:06
Real Name: Matthew
Gender: male
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Dormouse559 » 2016-07-09, 20:48

Levike wrote:Come on, Italian's always going to be considered the beautiful one when compared to Russian.
Who are we asking?
N'hésite pas à corriger mes erreurs.

User avatar
Levike
Posts: 6153
Joined: 2013-04-22, 19:26
Real Name: Levi
Gender: male
Location: Budapest
Country: HU Hungary (Magyarország)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Levike » 2016-07-09, 20:49

Dormouse559 wrote:
Levike wrote:Come on, Italian's always going to be considered the beautiful one when compared to Russian.
Who are we asking?

Most people.
Nem egy nap alatt épült Buda vára.

uzferry

Re: About sounding good.

Postby uzferry » 2016-07-09, 21:02

Dormouse559 wrote:
uzferry wrote:I think that just like there is music that is considered to be beautiful by most and is regarded as classic, while some random static noise objectively sucks
Neither of these statements helps your argument in my view.

"Classic" and "beautiful" aren't objective terms by any means. Their meaning is heavily dependent on culture. Maybe Beethoven's symphonies are generally considered beautiful from an affluent Western point of view. But change the perspective at all (geographic location, time period, artistic movement, class, etc.) and they may not be.

And it's apples and oranges to use random static in your analogy. Languages are by definition not random static.


I doubt that the cultures are so much separate that they couldn't at least appreciate each other's art. (but I haven't done any kind of research on how similar or different the music of different cultures is and I don't really want to do it)

And I think random static is a good example, because it shows that there is a difference in ability to cause enjoyment between different sets of sounds - why couldn't it exist in languages, too? (the difference may not be as great, of course. If you want, you can compare any song to a sound of a spoon being beaten into a pot/bowl accompanied with some humming)

And lastly, you can suppose OP was asking what makes the language sound good in the Western Culture. What would be your answer then?

User avatar
Dormouse559
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 6581
Joined: 2010-05-30, 0:06
Real Name: Matthew
Gender: male
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Dormouse559 » 2016-07-09, 21:28

uzferry wrote:I doubt that the cultures are so much separate that they couldn't at least appreciate each other's art. (but I haven't done any kind of research on how similar or different the music of different cultures is and I don't really want to do it)
But they often are. Things like race can keep one group from appreciating what another group considers beautiful. There's a long history in the United States of denigrating African American culture, simply because it's linked to black people.

uzferry wrote:And I think random static is a good example, because it shows that there is a difference in ability to cause enjoyment between different sets of sounds - why couldn't it exist in languages, too?
I'll agree that different sounds will give different levels of enjoyment. But makes the difference? I say it's the person listening. There are many objectively measurable aspects of sound, music and language, but there's no evidence that beauty is one of those.

Levike wrote:
Dormouse559 wrote:
Levike wrote:Come on, Italian's always going to be considered the beautiful one when compared to Russian.
Who are we asking?

Most people.
How do you know that's what most people think? What does "most people" even mean? 51 percent? 60 percent? 90 percent?
N'hésite pas à corriger mes erreurs.

uzferry

Re: About sounding good.

Postby uzferry » 2016-07-09, 21:44

Dormouse559 wrote:I'll agree that different sounds will give different levels of enjoyment. But makes the difference? I say it's the person listening. There are many objectively measurable aspects of sound, music and language, but there's no evidence that beauty is one of those.


imo beauty is all of those aspects, adjusted to provide high levels of enjoyment (for a human ear). I think it's not an actual trait or aspect, it's just a definition, a rule or something like that.

I agree that cultural differences play a big role here. But I still think there is something all the cultures have in common when talking about musical (or language) comprehension. After all, we're humans, biologically similar organisms.

Dormouse559 wrote:There's a long history in the United States of denigrating African American culture, simply because it's linked to black people.


Isn't that just ignorance?

User avatar
Levike
Posts: 6153
Joined: 2013-04-22, 19:26
Real Name: Levi
Gender: male
Location: Budapest
Country: HU Hungary (Magyarország)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Levike » 2016-07-09, 22:24

Dormouse559 wrote:How do you know that's what most people think? What does "most people" even mean? 51 percent? 60 percent? 90 percent?

Most clearly means majority. I never heard anyone saying it's ugly, how many times have you seen people (even on the internet) going "But why is Italian so ugly?" as opposed to "Why is it so beautiful?".

Even cubix put it as an example for a beautiful language.
Nem egy nap alatt épült Buda vára.

User avatar
Dormouse559
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 6581
Joined: 2010-05-30, 0:06
Real Name: Matthew
Gender: male
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Dormouse559 » 2016-07-09, 22:46

uzferry wrote:imo beauty is all of those aspects, adjusted to provide high levels of enjoyment (for a human ear). I think it's not an actual trait or aspect, it's just a definition, a rule or something like that.

I agree that cultural differences play a big role here. But I still think there is something all the cultures have in common when talking about musical (or language) comprehension. After all, we're humans, biologically similar organisms.
To a degree, yes, but I doubt its influence is as strong as you'd like to think. Let's assume there are strong, biologically based associations humans have with combinations of sounds found in human languages, and that some combinations will normally be considered more beautiful or more ugly than others. Can you think of a reason why languages with high amounts of the ugly combinations would develop?

It's already well established that, being biologically similar organisms, humans worldwide tend to avoid certain sounds and sound combinations because they are physically difficult to pronounce or distinguish.

uzferry wrote:
Dormouse559 wrote:There's a long history in the United States of denigrating African American culture, simply because it's linked to black people.


Isn't that just ignorance?
That's just the thing, though. Familiarity with something tends to influence how we think about it. How familiar you are with something is often a function of culture and other factors I've already listed. If I don't like something because it's unfamiliar, should my opinion count less? No single person is intimately familiar with every language. Does that affect the validity of their opinion on language beauty?

Levike wrote:Most clearly means majority.
Evidently, but what kind of majority? 50.000000001 percent? That's no better than chance.

But really, my main question here is, where does this knowledge come from? Is there a global opinion poll on language attractiveness?

Levike wrote:I never heard anyone saying it's ugly, how many times have you seen people (even on the internet) going "But why is Italian so ugly?" as opposed to "Why is it so beautiful?".
Our personal experiences don't prove anything.

Levike wrote:Even cubix put it as an example for a beautiful language.
Neither does cubix's.
N'hésite pas à corriger mes erreurs.

Cubix
Posts: 22
Joined: 2016-06-09, 17:29
Gender: male
Country: FR France (France)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Cubix » 2016-07-10, 10:53

Wow, this has gone mad.
To clarify the situation, I'm not really basing on statistics, but on what my friends (yes I have friends), my family think. It may be because of my culture (I'm french) that I found latin languages more "beautiful" that germanic ones. Or may be because French is a latin language too ?
Now, one could say it doesn't matter, but it's completely wrong. When us, french students, have to make the choice between Spanish and German, only a few of us choose German, and when I ask people who chose Spanish, they usually say it's because Spanish sounds way better. And I want my conlang to sound as good as possible because I want it to be attractive.
Langue maternelle : [flag=]fr[/flag]
Fluently spoken : [flag=]en[/flag]
Ich kann ein bisschen sprechen : [flag=]de[/flag]
Kaj esperanto mojosas ! [flag=]eo[/flag]
Et ju posam strugisa lingo : Bonestalingu. And I have a conlang : Bonestalingu.

uzferry

Re: About sounding good.

Postby uzferry » 2016-07-10, 15:06

Dormouse559 wrote: Can you think of a reason why languages with high amounts of the ugly combinations would develop?


I don't know. But by chance, some variations and differences can arise.

But yeah, I'm going to agree that the effect may not be that strong. That still leaves me with a question why do Western culture seem to prefer Romance languages. Or at least most of my friends I asked seem to do. :wink:

Dormouse559 wrote: Does that affect the validity of their opinion on language beauty?


I don't know

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 23457
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby linguoboy » 2016-07-10, 19:37

Cubix wrote:To clarify the situation, I'm not really basing on statistics, but on what my friends (yes I have friends), my family think. It may be because of my culture (I'm french) that I found latin languages more "beautiful" that germanic ones. Or may be because French is a latin language too ?

Or maybe because of the history between France and Germany? Or maybe all of these things.

I'm with Dormouse. People are awfully hasty to make the leap from "a few dozen people with a background extremely similar to mine think this" to "it is universal". Do any of you know how a native speaker of Chaga would rate Russian relative to Italian upon hearing them both for the first time? How could you!

I know people's judgment is heavily influenced by culture because the objective reasons they give for preferring one language to another are completely incoherent. For instance, the main complaint I've heard against German is that it's "too guttural" (chiefly on account of the Ach-Laut). But French in fact has more guttural sounds per phrase than German does, yet those same people will never fault French for being "too guttural". The same people who claim to hate the sound of Russian often love the sound of Irish Gaelic even though the phonology of the two languages is remarkably similar. They'll call Midwestern American English "too nasal" but rave about the sound of Portuguese. And so on and so forth.

Cubix wrote:Now, one could say it doesn't matter, but it's completely wrong. When us, french students, have to make the choice between Spanish and German, only a few of us choose German, and when I ask people who chose Spanish, they usually say it's because Spanish sounds way better. And I want my conlang to sound as good as possible because I want it to be attractive.

Again, this doesn't really tell us much. I'm not sure people are really conscious of the reasons they choose to study one language rather than another, but they know that "it sounds better" is an explanation those most everyone will take at face value.

Still, just as there have been some universals discovered when it comes to judging human beauty (e.g. eye spacing), there may be some universals when it comes to the aesthetics of language. The only one I've heard proposed, though, is the ratio of consonants to vowels. All things being equal, people seem to prefer languages with fewer consonant clusters and more open syllables. This is often cited as one of the reasons Italian is often called "beautiful". But Japanese has far more open syllables and a much higher vowel/consonant ratio than Italian but I rarely here the sound of Japanese described as "beautiful", and certainly not called more beautiful than Italian. (French--especially modern colloquial French--also does very poorly on this measure--as poorly if not more so than Germanic languages like German and English.)
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

User avatar
Mentilliath
Posts: 217
Joined: 2014-05-16, 0:53
Real Name: Anthony
Gender: male
Location: Menlo Park
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Mentilliath » 2016-07-12, 3:57

^I would describe Japanese as being beautiful when sung. But when spoken, it's simply spoken too quickly to appreciate its sound (in most cases). But when sung, I do think Japanese is indeed very beautiful. So maybe the theory about open syllables is true (Telugu also gets called the "Italian of the East" for its syllable structure and final vowels). Certainly many languages that people cite as "unpleasant" are ones with high amounts of consonant clusters or complex syllables, as well as a multitude of velar/uvular sounds.

I often do find that English speakers will report a Romance language to sound the best (usually either Spanish, French, or Italian). While there may be some universal features they possess that could describe this (these three languages certainly do have a lot of open syllables and few clusters), I think more of it has to do with the fact that the Romance languages are often the first "exotic" languages that English speakers (in America, at least) are exposed to, and they are associated with a romantic, beautiful image of Europe.

Personally, as much as I love Japanese, the language with the best sound to me is Romanian, the "forgotten" Romance language. It's perfection. Every time I hear Romanian (when sung especially), I think if I created a language that sounded half as good, I'd consider myself a genius. Gaelic (either one) I also love the sound of; I tried to think of why I did, and I realized it was all the lenition that occurs, all the "softening" of sounds that makes the sound delicate and beautiful (but again, I mostly am thinking of singing. I guess I judge a language's sound more by its sung sound than its spoken sound, and this is ironic considering I can't sing for beans).

Some qualities that I've put into Halvian to make it "sound good": I like the use of geminate consonants; they cause you to pause and add a melodic, poetic sound to the language. I notice this in Italian, and they occur frequently in Halvian, especially double /nn/. (Halvian's long vowels have a similar effect). I also use a lot of sonorants and few clusters that do not contain a sonorant. I cited two of my favorite Halvian phrases like "rámgala lálat" (it has been the truth) and "thénnos alários" (the strong warrior) as illustrating some of the pleasing sound I go for (of course, this is all my personal taste).
Primary Conlang: Halvian
Additional conlangs: Hesternese (Aikedenejo), Galsaic (sister language of Halvian), and Ogygian (unrelated to the others.

Atluk
Posts: 47
Joined: 2016-06-02, 0:03
Real Name: I'm not telling you.
Location: South Carolina
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby Atluk » 2016-07-12, 13:05

I agree. Though I think liquid consonants also have something to do with it.

Romance languages are beautiful and I see why a lot of people like them, but at the same time I think they are too "soft" for me.

I love Japanese, but also Nahuatl. Idk why that [tl] and [t͡ʃ] get me everytime.

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 23457
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: About sounding good.

Postby linguoboy » 2016-07-12, 17:22

Mentilliath wrote:Certainly many languages that people cite as "unpleasant" are ones with high amounts of consonant clusters or complex syllables, as well as a multitude of velar/uvular sounds.

I think Chinese (particularly Mandarin Chinese) represents a pretty significant counterexample.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons


Return to “Conlangs”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest