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How selected consonants sound around Europe, in 9 maps

by in offbeat

Alexander Young is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Washington who has studied Spanish and German.

He told i100.co.uk he created these maps of how constants sound across Europe after noticing that different languages had very different ideas about what to do with the letter J.

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Most language maps look at how similar the spoken languages are, or how much of the vocabulary is shared. This tells you how closely the languages are related. I wanted to do something different. The relationship between letters and the sounds is partly due to history, and partly due to convention.

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Romance languages tend to have historical baggage. For example, in Portuguese, the letter x evolved from sounding like 'ks' to 'sh', like in old words like "caixa" (box). In newer words imported from Latin or Greek forms or borrowed from other languages, the 'ks' is reinstated ( like in " oxigĂȘnio", oxygen).

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I have two versions of the letter C because there was a lot of debate about what is considered a "loan word". (Dutch in particular seems to have so many loan words that it's difficult to draw the line). The alternate version has a pattern that shows how the letter is pronounced when it is used as a burrowed letter. But the map is almost too busy and gets more difficult to read.

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