“Languages in hotter, more forested regions such as the tropics tended to be “sonorous,” employing lower frequency sounds and using fewer distinct consonants, whereas languages in colder, drier, more mountainous places were consonant-heavy,”

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One possible explanation for why vowel-rich languages appear more frequently in the tropics is that they travel farther than languages dominated by rapid-fire, high-frequency consonants, which lose their fidelity in humid, forested environments, he says. Heat and humidity interrupt sound, as do solid tree branches and leaves, he adds.

a similar pattern, and are “very much in line” with studies of acoustic adaptation in other species, Everett says. Although the findings remain purely correlational, and not based on any experimental evidence, he notes, the notion that ecological factors such as tree cover could affect the sounds a language develops is “a totally reasonable idea.”

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