Let me clarify what I mean by "harsh" and "soft" with an example: Suppose that you've just arrived in a strange planet and an alien is approaching you repeating just one vowel! Your feelings will certainly differ if the vowel is /ʏ/ or /aː/. In the first case it sounds somewhat more hostile (or at least more unfriendly).

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    There's nothing "certain" about it. This is mostly subjective. Mar 29, 2016 at 17:56
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    And here I thought it'd be that old horse about "harsh" consonants... hard vowels?
    – kaleissin
    Mar 29, 2016 at 18:04
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    I assume you also find Finnish, Turkish and French to be hostile languages. Plus, French has all of those nasal vowels which I would expect generate much rage. From the movie "Mars Attacks", we know objectively that the most hostile vowel is [æ].
    – user6726
    Mar 29, 2016 at 18:57
  • I didn't really get your definition of "harsh". could you elaborate on that? Mar 30, 2016 at 18:26
  • @Adel. Every vowel or consonant has a certain effect on our feelings. For example forms of /s/ or /sh/ are used to silence or /la/ for lullaby. This is why a dark metal singer and a missionary preacher pronounce the same word differently.
    – QED
    Mar 31, 2016 at 19:22

1 Answer 1


It is due to the cold winter temperatures of Scandinavia, where Germanic languages originated.

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The harsh vowels heat the throat, but, as you note, they are also a factor in wartime.

Over time, speakers with "softer" vowels like /aː/ either succumbed to evolution or moved South and joined the Romans (giving birth to French).

Russian, which is a Slavic language, did not undergo the same change because vodka also heats the throat. The Sami and Inuit are naturally evolved to the cold temperatures, so they have no need for heating vowels.

As you probably guessed by now, languages in very hot regions experienced the opposite effect. So although some people consider Arabic ﻉ to be harsh, linguistically it cannot possibly be.

As most aliens tend to land in New Mexico, where both English and Spanish are common, we assume they have returned to their home planet with mixed reports about the "harshness" of earth's inhabitants.

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    A very good answer.
    – fdb
    Mar 29, 2016 at 22:21
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    @Bittlingmayer: Your answer doesn't make sense
    – QED
    Apr 3, 2016 at 18:04
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    lol, this is perfect
    – Aryaman
    Nov 3, 2017 at 19:37
  • This answer is completely absurd. Jun 12, 2020 at 18:27
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    @RobertColumbia No more so than the question. Jun 16, 2020 at 10:31

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