language and the human face…

The April 25th issue of New Scientist has an article discussing a computer that can read from a speaker’s lips what language he/she is speaking. This reminded me of something I came across stating that people in southern Russia had a characteristic face shape that was thought to be due to the heavy bread that was their staple – the intense and persistent chewing required, bulked up certain face muscles. I would suggest that what is true for chewing could well be true for speaking – that one language will use certain facial muscles more than another. The consequence would then be that a French speaker would tend towards a particular facial configuration – a speaker of Mandarin Chinese would tend to another… so that the language you speak determines, to some extent, what your face looks like…

4 thoughts on “language and the human face…

  1. Alternately, the way people speak would also be a result to facial characteristics coming from other (external) influences. Not to mention that speech and the sound it makes can be influenced directly – one could argue that a country where people have to communicate over long distances against sharp wind need a different set of sounds than where people sat in caves huddled around a fire.

    As for me – I’ve been in contact with many languages and accents, and I find it impossible to adopt some particular sounds involved.

    1. I am sure that, naturally, the influence goes both ways. This could be solved scientifically by studying people immigrants who have their inheritance from beyond the genetic borders of the language they speak. If my hypothesis has any truth in it, then this speaker’s face should show a form between that of the indigenous speakers of that language and that typical of his genetic inheritance… Of course, this presupposes it is possible to find a face ‘typical’ of either the speakers of a language or of a particular genetic inheritance…

  2. Finding such an ‘average’ face would seem to me a reasonable application for computers – combined, of course, with some system of human vetting… As for your claim that immigrants tend to mix with indigenous populations, this may be true for some groups – but it is certainly not the case for others – in the UK, immigrants from Asia tend to form self-sustaining national communities…

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