Ancient Languages and emotional definitions of sound

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Exhumed, Sep 1, 2007.

  1. Exhumed Self ******. Registered Senior Member

    I just watched a kinda interesting youtube vid about this which I'll link below. It was advocating doing Buddhist chants in Sanskrit or ancient Tibetan, because their words have a meaning that correlates to a inherent emotional meaning.

    For example we know 'uhh' sounds confused, or not confident. Another sound is "Om", a common sound in Hindu mantras. It generally seems like a pleasant sound to me but I don't know what meaning I'd correlate it with, if any. One of my teachers told me that Om is one of the first things babies begin to pronounce (er, I think

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    Anyway, here is the vid. It is good, but you probably want to skip the first minute (an advertisement). Please watch

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    What interests me as someone who does not perform mantras or anything is his comments about saying I love you in other languages. In English he says the "love" pronunciation's primary part is the confused "uhhh" sound. In other languages, like the latin languages, you say it with focus on the confident "ah" sound. Like te amo in Spanish (I always liked that, and since I learned it years ago I've preferred to say it that way than with English, which makes me fidgety, but maybe there is a totally unrelated reason for that).

    Does anyone believe that there is any benefit to using a language that matches sound with meaning? In that vid he makes a bit of a reach when talking about marital fidelity and the sound of the words. I don't really agree, but I think it is a positive for the languages that match.
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    This is an extraordinary assertion, since Sanskrit is an Indo-European language and Tibetan is a Sino-Tibetan language. If these two language families are related, the common ancestor will be more than ten thousand years ago, beyond a number of independent phonetic shifts that we can't even track, since no more than a few dozen words have been found in the two families that could conceivably be cognates and it took massively parallel computing to sort out the hypothetical phonetic shifts and find them. Any similarity between the two is purely coincidental.
    Linguistics is a "soft science" so it's usually impossible to fully apply the scientific method to our theories. Partner it up with psychology, which is another soft science, and you're going to end up with some theories that are as solid as the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man. Then filter the whole thing through religion, which at its best is unscientific and at its worst is antiscientific, and you're going to have some really, um, interesting hypotheses.

    I don't think the Bulgarians would appreciate being told that accented vowel in the name of their country, language and people conveys a sense of confusion and lack of confidence! (That really is the UH in "love," the accent is on the first syllable and it's not BOOL-garia.)

    Our noble words "just" and "trust" also contain that sound (I can't write the IPA symbol with my browser, it's the upside-down V) , which is a perfectly honorable, full-fledged, credentialed phoneme. It also occurs in words of power like "shove" and "hunt," words with great religious potential like "above," and words of strong emotion like "lust."

    English and Bulgarian are not the only languages with this phoneme. Korean and Romanian both have it. So does Chinese, and that vowel standing alone as a monosyllable, which is transcribed E in both Wade-Giles and Pin-yin, has several meanings that are neither confused nor indecisive, depending on which of the tones it carries. One E means "hunger," another means "goose."

    I wouldn't put much stock in this pseudoscientific analysis. The theory of a Mongolic language family, postulating a relationship among everything from Japanese and Korean to Turkish and Estonian, is tenuous enough, and it was developed by proper linguists. The theory of a universal correlation between emotions and sound--developed by philosophers--is merely--um--interesting.

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    Last edited: Sep 1, 2007
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  5. Exhumed Self ******. Registered Senior Member

    I don't think he meant they were related, just that they both use sounds similar to some meaning. Coincidentally, as you said. What interests me is his claim that this was more common in older languages. Specifically that they might have become easier to learn and more proliferated by having words agreeing with some of the emotions. Even if to a small degree.

    I agree, but I'd leave the door open for a occasionally minuscule effect in favorably sounding pronunciation. And if you're into mantras it at least makes sense for that.

    In the user comments there was this:
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  7. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    A little more than that - this is a lay article but you can read further based on the references made:

    A lot of Yoga is based on repeating certain sounds
  8. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Tibetan might by Sino-Tibetan language. But I expect it to be pretty much influenced by Sanskrit. Even its script is of Sharada family, used in NE Indian languges. Plus, Tibet was much more accessible from NE India than from China. Add to that the fact lots of Hindu pilgrims travelled to Tibet. Many more Tibetan pilgrims journeyed to India than can be counted.

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