By, Russell Tuller
Traditional Anthro Artist/Amateur Anatomist
Recently I had gotten another question from someone viewing one of my many Anatomical Studies, concerning an Anthropomorphic Animal's ability to recreate human voice and language. This is a question I have been asked about MANY times and I felt that it was about time I put my ideas concerning the subject onto paper for everyone to read and speculate upon.
My following statements are based upon my Own Visual Interpretations of combined Human and Animal Anatomy. Which I use when creating Anthropomorphic Art and Anatomical Studies for my Gallery.
The Question of Language vs Intelligence
I suppose we can only really speculate on the full extent that an anthro creature's ability to vocalize human words would be. But I'd say they would surely be able to create their own intelligent forms of speech on their own over time, just as humans had done. So the assumption that they would not be able to reach a level of intelligence equal to humans because of the lack of the ability to recreate the human language is unfounded. Would they all be able to speak complete full English or other human languages? Well that remains to be seen. Many Birds have the capability to recreate human words without lips etc and I've heard of dogs able to recreate simple words like “Mama”, and even full sentences like “I love you”, etc.
It must be kept in mind that, Humans are able to learn each others languages easily because we are all races of the same species and share the same basic anatomical structure. The same would not be said for an Anthropomorphic species with drastically different anatomical compositions. There would of course, be a large amount of vocalizations which would be universally shared among all species and races though.
In a real world setting, I'd say other forms of communication would be paramount when conversing with other sentient beings, but every anthropomorphic species would have the intelligence to learn and understand all languages through study, but not be unable to completely vocalize them. So, Writing, forms of Sign Language, and Expressions through facial and body movement would be necessary forms of communication for all people living in a world alongside Anthropomophs and for the Anthropomorphs themselves as well.
A Look at the Question Through the Anatomical Lens.
Now, my personal anatomical studies have focused mainly upon bone and muscle structure and the over all visual shape of animals and humans rather than the inner workings of their organs, so what I'm about to say next shouldn't necessarily be taken as %100 fact. They are rather my assumptions and speculations based upon what knowledge I do have on the matter. But honestly, in the end, all we can really do is assume and speculate anyways having no real world references to refer to.
The ability to recreate and develop language in my opinion really depends on the structure of the Larynx (Voice Box) and the vocal cords of a creature which in my anthropomorphic interpretations, are mostly human in design apposed to animal in structure. Length of neck and the shape and length of the creatures mouth would in my opinion, just change the depth and tone of the creature's voice. A canine for example would have a lower and perhaps raspy voice given the amount of space the sound would have to travel to finally exit the mouth, think of yourself talking through a pipe or something similar. That is probably a universal standard for movies these days with talking animals like dragons, werewolves, etc so I guess you could use those as possible examples for the real world to some extent. An Anthropomorphic Feline on the other hand would produce a depth and tone similar to a human's given their shorter snouts.
The real anatomical issue here would come down to the tongue, humans use their tongue to say many words and I'm not sure if a wolf or other creature with especially long tongues would be able to recreate those words properly, but then again their tongues are very thick with muscle and can be moved in ways that most humans cannot, so who really knows?
A more Deeper Look into an Anthropomorphic Wolf/Werewolf's Speech.
The following is a deeper look into what I think an anthropomorphic canine would sound like and how they would form words. Canines are a species I've put the most research into through the years so I'll attempt to elaborate a bit further with them. Something close to these results could also be attributed to other species with similar head, neck, and mouth structures.
The same would apply here as was mentioned in the past section, they would have a lower, and raspy voice when saying the majority of their words, be them from the human languages or their own.
To recreate Human words which use the tip of the tongue, I could see a canine species pushing forward their lips into a more human mouth shape to compensate, though it would increase the depth and tone of the sound even further. I think it would produce a very interesting speech pattern when creating full sentences, it would sound as though they where singing their words with drastically differentiating tones for some words, very much what you would here in the wild with real wolves today, just instead of random tones they would be forming actual cognate worded sentences. Which I'd think would be a very beautiful thing to be heard.
In addition, to speech, a wolf species would make use of body expression like its feral counterparts. Tail and body positioning, vocalizations etc, would carry over and be incorporated into their cultural language. For the most part facial expression, smiling, bared teeth, etc would be universal throughout all races and species, and therefor be incorporated as well.
Some Final Notes
When it comes to story telling no matter what the case, if you have anthropomorphic characters living alongside Humans and holding conversation, they are gonna be able to understand and communicate with one another in some form or another, so its never really a huge issue for writers or readers. People don't think too deeply into how the creature sounds or how they are understanding each other, and is more than often overlooked and left up for interpretation by the reader.
I'd like to mention again that all of this has been based upon my own interpretations of Anthropomorphic Anatomy which tends to lean more towards the Human body structure than their animal counterparts. More bestial Anthropomophs may have much more difficulty forming words, taking into account, larger lungs, different breathing intervals, and brain capacity. Simply the more bestial in form a creature is the harder it would be for that creature to properly develop and interpret words.
That being said I doubt that a modern feral animal like we all see running about in our world today would have either the mental capacity or physical aspects needed to ever develop or recreate/ develop a language as advanced and relatable as a human's without their anatomy being drastically modified, evolved, or mechanically augmented in some fashion.
Alright, so this is a question which I've seen pop up in the comment sections of many of my Anatomical Art over the years, and I think its about time I put pen to paper and explained my insights on the matter.
"Would an Anthropomorphic Animal with an inhuman facial structure have the ability of speech in the real world?"
Well the short answer is, in my opinion "Yes" although it would not be as perfect as our own human speech and have unique qualities depending on the species in question. They would have some difficulty recreating some human words and humans would have difficulty understanding them too, but as with any Foreign language that could be solved with language study on both fronts. The anthro in question would basically have a very horrible accent, although some may find the accent beautiful, it would be subjectable to each individual in such a world setting I'm sure.
If you haven't read the above literature yet you can get a more detailed exploration and study into the whole idea and my reasons behind my choice of answer from it.
This is a different art form for me to explore ideas with. Usually my anatomical studies are visual explanations and representations, but I felt that text would be a better means of explaining and exploring this subject with all of you.
Would this be something you guys would like to see more of in the future? Was my writing skill good enough to teach you new things and maybe answer some questions you had regarding Anthropomorphic Speech?
I hope it was, and I hope you all enjoy and learn something from it too. ^_^
If your interested, you can find all my Anatomical Study Art including the image included with the text at my gallery here:
Anyways, corvid or parrot anthropomorphic creatures would probably have the easiest time communicating with humans and maybe even other creatures thanks to their skill with mimicry and a similar (yet not quite evolved) grasp on laungauge .
Also, a shout to AngelTigress03, who I bet would love to read this if she hasn't already.
That being said, the books have a LOT of non-humanoid species. The dinosaur-like Pakwa-thah, for example.
I do agree the books do better with diversity of species...I've fallen out with them over a series of other editorial decisions, but that was always a strong suit in either the modern books, or the older ones by Diane Duane (God, I wish she were still writing Star Trek!!!).
Then again look at native-american. It's totally different as well. Especially because it wasn't influenced for 10,000 years by other languages. I'm not sure yet if it all has one family but I know several tribes have different roots such as the Cherokee's are an Iroquoian root.
But if you look even deeper. I speak english (and BASIC, HTML, 6502 assembler, etc. (giggles)) and a smattering of Tsalagi Gawonihisdi (cherokee) But my /accent is appalachian/. Many do not know this, but our accent dates back to victorian era english from England, Scott, and Irish. It's changed little in the 300 or so years since Appalachia was founded.
In my primative 'nunne'hiEarth' storyworld, I see at least 4 different standard languages. The prey, predator, common (english) and 'trader' which is a language based on body posture, sign language and standard words. All species are taught this from birth. From there the species build and learn each other's language, although many will say the other has an accent
I've definitely saved this and will keep it in mind. Great article!