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Rescooped by John Blunnie from Geography Education!

Do Geography and Altitude Shape the Sounds of a Language?

Do Geography and Altitude Shape the Sounds of a Language? | Blunnie's Geo Portfolio |
Languages that evolve at high elevations are more likely to include a sound that's easier to make when the air is thinner, new research shows

Via Seth Dixon
John Blunnie's insight:

An interesting trend was found between language and geography. It seems the higher the elevation, the more likely the spoken language contains ejective consonants (in which an intense burst of air is released). This is due to air beiong more easily compressed when the air is less dense.

PatrickHance's comment, September 2, 2013 9:33 PM
Recently, a University of Miami linguist named Caleb Everett made a surprising discovery about how geography influences language. Previously, it was assumed that how languages developed sounds was random. His findings show that languages with ejective consonants have a strong tendency to be in high-altitude regions. Ejective consonants are made by suddenly releasing an intense burst of air, and about 20% of the worlds languages have them. By sampling 567 of the 6909 known languages, Everett found that 87% of languages with ejective consonants are found in areas above 1500 meters. Only 43% of languages originating in high altitude areas were without ejectives, and just 4% of languages developed far from high altitudes had ejectives. Everett also found that as the altitude of a language's origin point grew, so did the chance of it containing ejectives. Assuming that his findings hold up when the rest of the world's languages are analyzed, this would be the first time geography was proven to change the sounds of a language.
PatrickHance's comment, September 2, 2013 9:56 PM
I feel that this is a very important article. If his analysis remains true for all the other remaining languages in the world, then it'll be a major discovery. This research may open up a whole new branch of linguistics, regarding how languages are shaped by geography. Soon, we could be discovering how dry, mountain air could help you make clearer sounds, and so on. From there, we could be studying how factors like socioeconomic status change your speech. The prospects for a big discovery like this are amazing.
PatrickHance's comment, September 2, 2013 10:02 PM
Stromberg, Joseph. "Do Geography and Altitude Shape the Sounds of a Language?." Surprising Science. Smithsonian, 12 Jun 2013. Web. 1 Sep. 2013. <>.
Rescooped by John Blunnie from Geography Education!

Atlas of True Names

Atlas of True Names | Blunnie's Geo Portfolio |

The Atlas of True Names reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings,
of the familiar terms on today's maps of the World, Europe, the British Isles and the United States.

For instance, where you would normally expect to see the Sahara indicated,
the Atlas gives you "The Tawny One", derived from Arab. es-sahra “the fawn coloured, desert”.

Via Seth Dixon
John Blunnie's insight:

True names give these maps a unique and historic twist.

Kaylin Burleson's curator insight, June 16, 2013 4:44 PM
What a good way to get the students thinking and questioning while using this fun set of maps.
Carol Thomson's curator insight, July 17, 2013 4:57 AM

I loved looking at the map of great britain.  I hope it grabs my pupils' attention as an introduction to maps.

Amy Marques's curator insight, July 31, 2013 7:19 PM

Great to see what the original names where! Especially for those that are similar to its current name and those that are completely irrelevant!