Wondering if animal sounds have any formal classification or linguistics symbols like the IPA.

For example:

Wondering because we can make these sounds, so it seems like we should have labels for them.

  • 2
    You might want to look at this question: linguistics.stackexchange.com/q/15497. People can't actually quack like ducks, we just make noises that we think resemble those sounds. If you're not asking about linguistic transcription and the IPA, then I'm not sure what such symbols would represent. A spectrogram is pretty accurate, more than a letter.
    – user6726
    Aug 27, 2018 at 16:02
  • Oldie but a goodie: the nasal-ingressive voiceless velar trill. "specgram.com/CLXXI.1/18.vandermeer.j______.html'
    – No Name
    Mar 25, 2020 at 19:19

2 Answers 2


The IPA is actually for describing the sounds we can make with our vocal tracts, and which also are part of human language. As such, it's inappropriate for describing animal sounds, just as it's inappropriate for describing a belch or a scream.

We are unable to make animal sounds, but

  • because of how our brains process sounds

  • because humans seem to drill their young on onomatopoeia associated with animals

we think we can make animal sounds. But have you ever actually heard a pig say "oink"? A pig doesn't even have the necessary anatomy to make that sound. So the way you have described animal sounds, actually I perceive them differently and wouldn't describe them the way you did, since it's so subjective.

So now as @user6726 pointed out in a comment, spectrograms (something like a soundwave plotted on the paper I think) might fit the bill though.

  • People trying to imitate pigs don’t actually say ‘oink’, though, any more than people trying to imitate horses say ‘whinny’. Those are descriptive pseudo-onomatopoeias for sounds that we are able to – and do – reproduce much more faithfully if we want to. As mentioned in the comments to the question, people actually trying to sound like a pig will produce a diphthong consisting of two nasal-ingressive voiceless velar trills, the first part labialised, the second palatalised. Dec 4, 2020 at 17:30

Okay so the duck sound are basically buccal laterals. The dog growling is a simultaneous alveolar trill and the g sound it is not a velar tril though. And bird sounds are lateral trills and cat purrs are ejective trills I don't know for the rest of them.

  • 1
    His example are actual animal sounds. Actual duck sounds are not buccal laterals: ducks don't have cheeks. Human imitation of animal sounds varies according to language.
    – user6726
    Dec 2, 2020 at 1:41

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