Sound symbolism is when a phrase seems like what it means. One kind is onomatopoeia; for instance, phrases that describe a cat’s meow or a rooster’s crow are comparable throughout many languages. Globally, phrases having to do with noses typically embody the nasal N sound, and phrases associated to smallness typically have an “ee” sound (as in “mini” or “teensy weensy”), just like the squeaking of a small creature.
To search for patterns in swearing, the researchers requested fluent audio system of Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Korean and Russian to listing probably the most vulgar phrases they might consider. As soon as they’d compiled an inventory of every language’s most often used epithets, the researchers in contrast these with impartial phrases from the identical language.
In these languages, they didn’t discover the harsh-sounding cease consonants that appear widespread in English swear phrases. “As an alternative, we discovered patterns that none of us anticipated,” Dr. Lev-Ari mentioned. The vulgar phrases have been outlined by what they lacked: the consonant sounds L, R, W and Y. (In linguistics, these light sounds are referred to as approximants.)
Subsequent, the scientists regarded for a similar phenomenon utilizing audio system of various languages: Arabic, Chinese language, Finnish, French, German and Spanish. The topics listened to pairs of phrases in a language they didn’t converse, and guessed which phrase in every pair was offensive. In actuality, all of the phrases have been invented. For instance, the researchers began with the Albanian phrase “zog,” for “chook,” and created the pair of pretend phrases “yog” and “tsog.” Topics have been extra prone to guess that phrases with out approximants, comparable to “tsog,” have been curses.
Lastly, the researchers combed by means of the dictionary for English swear phrases and their cleaned-up variations, additionally referred to as minced oaths (“darn,” “frigging” and so forth). As soon as once more, the clear variations included extra of the sounds L, R, W and Y.