When you compare English with e.g .Russian or some other Slavic language, English sounds very cold and not warming at all. Could it be explained scientifically?

Compare this in Russian:


And this in English:


Russian to me sounds more "human" and warm. Could it be scientifically explain?

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    I don't think you can measure a "warm" language and a "cold" one in a scientific manner as it's a subjective classification and every person sees things differently. Unless you give an objective definition of what you mean by "cold" and "warm", this question is more tending to opinions than facts. – Alenanno Jun 29 '13 at 15:07
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    I think it is the phonotactic suitablity effect-- after you learn a language you get a feel for what is a valid word (even if it isn't in the lexicon). Absd sounds wrong in english (illegal consonant clusters), but is fine in Russian (Absd is the name of a Russian mathematician). So when you are exposed to a foreign language, your brain is telling you "that doesn't sound right, it's violating all the phonotactic rules" and after a long while you get used to it & it starts to sound right. In your case, eventually English would sound right and Frisian and Dutch will sound wrong. – MatthewMartin Jun 30 '13 at 15:05
  • Right. And English is also quite rigid about word order, whereas in Russian word order is freely variable for lots of purposes, including emotive display. – jlawler Jun 30 '13 at 15:56
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    I would not say English is cold, I would say it is "wooden". – Anixx Jul 31 '13 at 17:58
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    This question begins with a subjective judgment ("English is colder than Slavic languages") and asks for a specific reason for that judgment. Well, nobody knows what happened in your childhood, so there you go. I vote close. – Fryie Aug 15 '13 at 2:00

Although I am quite fluent in Russian, I wouldn't say English sound particularly 'cold' to me. There can be many different personal explanations on why we like or dislike certain languages: childhood imprinting, personal idiosyncrasy, aversion to or preferences towards certain languages - you name it.

But the psycholinguistic reason may be that Russian in fact offers a greater number of options of intonational patterns than English does. In Russian, the intonation actually conveys syntactical meaning covering the speakers's personal attitude towards the things said (or towards an addressee).

The difference may be also in MBTI-types of the actors (the Russian actors are more like Feeling types).

Also, please notice that while both stories cover the same archetypical scenarios (journey into a mirror, meeting doppelgängers and going through labyrinths), they are different and the Russian story is a bit secondary to Carrol's book, for it partially borrows the original idea (namely, travel through a mirror).

These ideas are well synthesised with Slavic archetypes of journeys to another world and were later developed in many Russian books.

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I agree completely with the comment by @Alenanno, Jun 29 at 15:07. But you had asked for some scientific evaluation, so here it is.

I came across a paper by Stephanie Lindemann, Who speaks “broken English”? US undergraduates’ perceptions of non-native English, that, as the title says, deals with the converse phenomenon. "respondents were given a list of 58 countries and asked to rate the English of university students from each of these countries on how correct, friendly, and pleasant they found it on a scale of 1 to 10." The study covers accents from France, Italy, Germany, Russia, India, Mexico, and China.

Many AmE speakers commented that a Russian accent sounds "harsh", "hard", "guttural", "very forceful and damaging to the throat". Does this make a statement about Slavic/Russian itself, or about how Slavic/Russian is perceived by American students? I am, of course, assuming that these perceptions would stay the same whether a Russian is speaking English or speaking Russian.

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  • Check this unique Slavic dialect from Slovakia : youtu.be/eBDry5kVfmU . Modern Slovak language is based on this dialect. English doesn't have e.g. Ľ,Ť so some things like "I love you" sounds cold. For me it sounds similar like for you "Ich liebe dich!" a little harsh (unless it's told by a German supermodel ;). "Ľúbim ťa" or "Я люблю тебя" sounds less harsh. In Slovak, we have a word "ľubozvučnosť" something like "euphony" and it's very typical for the Slovak language. Another examples youtu.be/vE8w31-35Go or youtu.be/HKLbnqhXaIo – Derfder Jul 31 '13 at 17:49
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    @Derfder: My own perceptions vary vastly, from speaker to speaker. I have come across, what is to me, pleasant and unpleasant examples of each of these languages and English accents. I am at a loss when asked for an overall evaluation. – prash Jul 31 '13 at 18:07
  • @Derfder: I will add that if a person sounds harsh to me in one language, ei sounds the same in each language ei speaks. And likewise, for people who sound pleasant to me. – prash Jul 31 '13 at 18:10

The reason for this is that Russian is a much more tonal language than English. Therefore, Russians use tone more to convey meaning, feelings, size, etc... As a result, English sounds like it has less life, because there is less tonality in English speech.

Also, the use of suffixes in Russian often allow one to associate a word with the one following it. As a result, there is more of a sense of flow in Russian speech, which also gives it that more "lifelike" quality when compared to English.

Just my 2 cents worth as a fluent bilingual speaker of both languages that shares the OP's sentiment.

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    WRT "Russian is a much more tonal language than English. Therefore, Russians use tone more to convey meaning, feelings, size, etc." Neither Russian nor English are tonal languages. Speakers of practically all languages use intonation. The same applies to cross-word coarticulatory effects, whether triggered by suffixes or not. – prash Jul 31 '13 at 19:54
  • Yes, but in Russian, intonation can change the meaning of the sentence (e.g., from statement to question). – Michael Goldshteyn Aug 2 '13 at 21:17
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    And that is different from English? – prash Aug 2 '13 at 23:25
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    @prash Perhaps Michael means that intonation is more often distinctive. Whereas English inverts a sentence into TSPO word order (like Welsh declaratives) to mark it as a question, Russian is freer from the start and presumably needs some other cue. – Damian Yerrick Aug 30 '15 at 16:17

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