About sounding good.

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Mentilliath
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Re: About sounding good.

Postby Mentilliath » 2016-07-12, 17:26

In that case, I wonder if some people's negative perception of Mandarin is due more to the presence of tones? I admit that when I hear tonal languages spoken, it's such a change from the way other languages I'm more used to sound (i.e. European ones), that it can be a bit jarring.
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Re: About sounding good.

Postby IpseDixit » 2016-07-12, 18:56

For what it's worth, I tend to agree with those who say that our perception of other languages is heavily influenced by "extra-linguistic" factors such as the culture associated with a certain language.

For example I'm pretty sure that virtually nobody in the broad public mentions Romanian among the most beautiful languages, despite it being of the Romance family, because, till a few years ago, Romania was an austere, bleak communist country of the Warsaw Pact and probably also because of Transylvania and Dracula.

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Re: About sounding good.

Postby Atluk » 2016-07-12, 19:07

Mentilliath wrote:In that case, I wonder if some people's negative perception of Mandarin is due more to the presence of tones? I admit that when I hear tonal languages spoken, it's such a change from the way other languages I'm more used to sound (i.e. European ones), that it can be a bit jarring.


I'm sure the claims people make about languages are exaggerated.

I don't think Mandarin sounds as bad as people says it does. In fact, I kinda have a fascination with it because it is so different from the Indo-European languages. Mandarin utilizes tones, it is isolating, and lacks tenses, traits that seem to be lacking in the Indo-European family. I heard Greek has tones, but I think it is more of a pitch accent. I could be wrong about that though. All of the Indo-European languages AFAIK are inflecting, but some less so than others as is the case with English.

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Re: About sounding good.

Postby linguoboy » 2016-07-12, 19:36

Atluk wrote:I heard Greek has tones, but I think it is more of a pitch accent.

Greek had tone. Modern Greek has stress accent.

Atluk wrote:All of the Indo-European languages AFAIK are inflecting, but some less so than others as is the case with English.

Depends how you classify creole languages derived from I-E lexical stock.
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Re: About sounding good.

Postby voron » 2016-07-12, 19:59

IpseDixit wrote:For example I'm pretty sure that virtually nobody in the broad public mentions Romanian among the most beautiful languages, despite it being of the Romance family, because, till a few years ago, Romania was an austere, bleak communist country of the Warsaw Pact and probably also because of Transylvania and Dracula.

For me, Romanian is the only Romance language that sounds beautiful. All the others are mediocre. :P

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Re: About sounding good.

Postby Saim » 2016-07-13, 2:22

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.


So not always then, hey?

Admit it: people think Italian is "beautiful" because they associate it with Florence, pasta and pizza. It's not the geminate consonants and the open-closed vowel distinctions that they're enjoying.

IpseDixit wrote:For example I'm pretty sure that virtually nobody in the broad public mentions Romanian among the most beautiful languages


I reckon the average English speaker wouldn't even be able to tell Romanian and Neapolitan apart in a random test.

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Re: About sounding good.

Postby Mentilliath » 2016-07-13, 4:02

IpseDixit wrote:For what it's worth, I tend to agree with those who say that our perception of other languages is heavily influenced by "extra-linguistic" factors such as the culture associated with a certain language.

For example I'm pretty sure that virtually nobody in the broad public mentions Romanian among the most beautiful languages, despite it being of the Romance family, because, till a few years ago, Romania was an austere, bleak communist country of the Warsaw Pact and probably also because of Transylvania and Dracula.


People also just have no exposure to it. Romania isn't the travel destination that France, Spain, and Italy are. But if more people heard Romanian, I'm sure they'd realize how awesome it is ;)
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Re: About sounding good.

Postby Levike » 2016-07-13, 9:37

Saim wrote:So not always then, hey?

Admit it: people think Italian is "beautiful" because they associate it with Florence, pasta and pizza. It's not the geminate consonants and the open-closed vowel distinctions that they're enjoying.

Of course not always, but most.

I say it's the same as human beauty, tastes change and culture and all influence you, but overall people still won't find others with yellow teeth and 200 kilos attractive. Same with languages, tastes differ, culture and stereotypes influence you but overall people won't find Russian with its consonants beautiful when compared to Italian.

Again: I'm not saying that Florence or whatever beautiful place doesn't influence how people think of Italian or any other language, I'm just not buying that the way people think of a language's beauty can totally be traced back them associating it with the county, its speakers, its culture. What I'm saying is that there are things like a certain vowel-consonant ratio or the presence or lack of some sounds that do make a language more singy-songy therefore more pleasant to listen to.
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Re: About sounding good.

Postby Vlürch » 2016-07-13, 20:19

uzferry wrote:some random static noise objectively sucks

As an experimental musician who dabbles in noise, I find your "objectivity" offensive.
Dormouse559 wrote:"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.

Exactly, and it's not even just cultural differences that influence it but personal opinions and personality as a whole. To declare that something that people like "objectively sucks" without hurting their feelings is impossible, but most people don't make a big deal out of it because it just doesn't matter, but demanding that they accept that the thing they like objectively sucks is on a smaller scale what's one of the defining characteristics of communist dictatorships. Of course these don't have any real connection to one another in 99.9999% of cases, but still.
Levike wrote: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.

No, it's not the same. For most people, perception of beauty is connected to perception of health. The sounds of a language and the health of the people that speak it have no connection whatsoever.
Dormouse559 wrote:
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.

Yeah, and that's just in the US. In Finland, there's bias against the Sami to the point where it's a common belief that the Sami are "slant-eyed invaders" when in reality it's Finns that came from the east and drove the Sami to the north, and we're overall still more "Asian-looking" than the Sami even if nowadays nobody thinks of Finns as anything other than white except for some Germanic ultranationalists.
Dormouse559 wrote:
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.

Exactly.
Levike wrote:
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?".

Actually, I know someone who thinks Italian and French are ugly and Turkish and German are beautiful. While I disagree with German and Turkish being beautiful, I do like Turkic languages precisely because of that; they're not beautiful and that makes them enjoyable. Same with death metal, noise music, etc.
Cubix wrote:I want my conlang to sound as good as possible because I want it to be attractive.

Then why don't you just make it attractive to your personal preference? It's your conlang.
linguoboy wrote: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.

Agreed! I think it's some combination of subconscious pride/shame, the effects of "immersive interpersonal propaganda" and an assumption of an exclusivist/inclusivist-nationalist/multiculturalist binary rather than being based on how the languages actually sound.
linguoboy wrote: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.

Well, you do now! In my opinion Japanese is a much more beautiful language than Italian, just like Japanese women are more beautiful than Italian women; on the other hand, I think Italian men are more handsome than Japanese men.
Mentilliath wrote: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.

This, but I'd take it even further and claim it's because they're some of the only languages they've ever actually heard spoken or, in more extreme cases, even know to exist. I've come across a lot of Americans on the internet who didn't know that Finnish even exists and they all thought that Finns speak Swedish, some didn't even believe me when I told them that Finnish is a real language because they couldn't tell it apart from Swedish in writing. Given that probably at least 20% of all English-speakers are ignorant in that regard, and that about half of the speakers of Romance languages that I've spoken to thought that Finnish was either a Germanic or Slavic language... well... you know.


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