If languages had flavours, what would they taste like?
German tastes of sauerkraut...
I have treated this questions with the academic rigour it deserves. I therefore began my investigations by typing “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” into google translate.
Norwegian : Den raske brune raeven hoppet over den dovne hunden
Italian: La volpe marrone veloce saltò sul cane pigro
German: Der schnelle braune Fuchs sprang über den faulen [lang] Hund
Dutch: De snelle [goed] bruine vos sprong over de luie hond
French: Le rapide renard brun sauta par dessus le chien paresseux
I then pronounced each sentence carefully (in my best exaggerated accent) and these are my impressions:
- ENGLISH IS IDENTIFIED BY ITS DENTAL FRICATIVE ‘TH’ AND LABIAL ‘R’
The unique identifier for English amongst these languages is the dental fricative that gives us ‘the’. We also have an r which is in most dialects produced with the lips rather than with a trill or tap on the alveolar ridge or in the throat
- ITALIANS LIKE APICAL CONSONANTS
Whereas English has light and dark ‘l’s, Italians like the lightest of light ‘l’s using only the apical section of their tongue.
- NORWEGIANS PREFER LAMINAL CONSONANTS
Not dissimilar to English, but instead of the dental fricative ‘th’, Norwegian uses a laminal ‘d’, using the laminal tip of the tongue against the teeth or alveolar ridge. This is a common sound in many European languages.
- FRENCH LIKE TO MIX EVERYTHING UP
As befits the language from the centre of the area I have investigated, French has elements of all the languages around it. I am therefore going to say it uses all the different parts of the mouth - labial, dental/alveolar, palatal, velar/uvular - and has no particular preference for one area
- GERMANS LIKE THE BACK OF THE TONGUE
I really wanted a ‘lang’ in my translated phrase (so I shoved one in) as I when I impersonate German, I think of velar nasals using the sides of the tongue at the back of my mouth. ‘Ng’ As in Ich habe hunNGer.
- DUTCH LIKE THEIR THROATS
Again, this is useless translated phrase as I really needed a ‘goed’ to provide the velar or uvular fricative to impersonate someone Dutch. Greeks also use this unusual collection of sounds, as do cartoon characters when they are being choked.
Now, it is common knowledge that taste buds are located around the tongue’s geography such that different areas are responsible for generating different taste sensations.
From this I have come up with the unique taste of each language based on reeeeaally sound scientific principles and some national stereotyping:
Italian → apical → sweet → eg ice cream;
Norwegian →laminal →salty → eg salted cod;
French →whole tongue → umami →Steak;
German →back of tongue at the sides →sour →saurkraut;
Dutch →uvulor →bitter →endive
The labial and teeth parts of the mouth are not so easily mapped onto a taste. Of course the tongue tip is used for these sounds that are identifers of English, so English must be a combination of sweet taste, but using more of the lips as part of the sensation ….
English → lips →sweet → DOUGHNUT!
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