Full-text resources of CEJSH and other databases are now available in the new Library of Science.
Visit https://bibliotekanauki.pl


2010 | 52 | 1 | 99-111

Article title

Euphony in World Languages


Selected contents from this journal

Title variants

Languages of publication



There are many languages in the world but every language has its own sound picture. By the sound picture of a language we mean the distribution of its speech sounds in the speech sound chain. It is very interesting to find the languages which are melodical or euphonic and which are not. Melodicity or euphony is the total of the vowels and sonorant consonants in the speech sound chain of a language. It is also possible to call this total the vocalo-sonorant quotient. Thus, the degree of melodicity is the value of this quotient.Vowels and sonorant consonants constitute the vocalo-sonorant structure of the sound picture of any language. We take into consideration the basic features of sound classes and groups. The basic features consist of the frequency of occurrence of vowels and sonorant consonants in the speech chain. These basic features may be found in any world language. This is why, melodicity is one more language universal. Analysing the value of melodicity, one can construct the typology of distribution of language taxa according to this universal characteristic.Austronesian languages have a great concentration of vowels in the speech sound chain (e.g. maximum - 65.24% in Hawaiian and 69.75% in Samoan).Vocalo-sonorant quotient turned out to be bigger in the following language taxa: Sino-Tibetan family (Burmese - 75.67%), Bantu (Swahili - 76.29%), Afro-Asian family (Neo-Aramaic - 81.47%), Austronesian family (Hawaiian - 83.29%), languages of Australian aboriginals - Nunggubuyu - 85.14%). It means that 85.14% of the Nunggubuyu speech sound chain consists of vowels and sonorant consonants.On the other hand, some of the world languages have the minimum of the concentration of vowels. So, in the Itelmen language (Paleo-Asiatic family) vowels comprise only 32.61%.Let us consider the minimum of the vocalo-sonorant quotient. Thus, in the Adygian language (Caucasian family) this quotient reaches only 54.07%.It should be mentioned that on the average the Caucasian language family has a rather low vocalo-sonorant quotient - 61.66%. The ordered series of the average of the vocalo-sonorant quotient in different language taxa is the following: Baltic group of Indo-European family - 62.76%; Iranian group of the Indo-European family - 63.95%); Slavonic group - 64.64%; Germanic - 64.78%; Samoyedic family - 65.16%; Finno-Ugric family - 65.57%; Mongolic family - 66.06%; Balkan language unity - 66.18%; Indic group of the Indo-European family - 66.77%; Turkic family - 66.99%; Paleo-Asiatic family - 67.58%; Sino-Tebetan family - 67.63%; Roman group of I-E family - 68.57%; Afro-Asiatic family - 68.96%; Manchu-Tungusic family - 69.54%; Austronesian family - 73.16%; Bantu - 73.40%; Languages of Australian aboriginals - 80.51%.Melodicity, i.e. the total of vowels and sonorant consonants, may be considered a language universal.









Physical description




  • Department of English and Linguistics, Novosibirsk Pedagogical University, P. O. Box 104, Novosibirsk-123, 630123 Russia


  • Butler Christopher. 1985. Statistics in Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.[WoS]
  • Crystal David. 1992. An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Language and Languages. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Herdan Gustav. 1966. The Advanced Theory of Language as Choice and Chance. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
  • Polya George. 1954. Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning. Princeton (New Jersey, USA): Princeton University Press.
  • Tambovtsev Yuri Alex. 1977. "Nekotorye harakteristiki raspredelenija fonem mansijskogo jazyka" [Some Characteristics of the Distribution of Phonemse in the Mansi Language]. Sovetskoe Finno-Ugrovedenije [Soviet Finno-Ugric Studies] 13(3), 195-198.
  • Tambovtsev Yuri Alex. 1979. "Raspredelenie glasnyh fonem v mansijskoj poezii" [Distribution of Vowels in the Mansi Poetry]. Sovetskoe Finno-Ugrovedenie [Soviet Finno-Ugric Studies] 15(3), 164-167.
  • Tambovtsev Yuri Alex. 2003. Tipologija funktsionorovanija fonem v zvukovoj tsepochke indoevropejskih, paleoasiatskih, uralo-altajskih i drugih jazykov mira: kompaktnost' podgrupp, grupp, semej i drugih jazykovah taksonov [Typology of Functioning of Phonemes in the Sound Chain of Indo-European, Paleo-Asiatic, Uralo-Altaic and Other World Languages: Compactness of Subgroups, Groups, Families and Other Language Taxa]. Novosibirsk: Sibirskij Nezavisimyj Institut.

Document Type

Publication order reference


YADDA identifier

JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.