Animal Sounds.

Via Victor Mair at the Log:

Here is what claims to be “the world’s biggest multilingual list” of sounds that animals make. It has 58 animal sounds as made in 17 languages. Some of the animals are recorded as making separate sounds for different meanings (e.g., there are 10 different sounds listed for dogs) and some are distinguished between the sounds made by the male and the female of the species (e.g., the turkey). Needless to say, there are lots of gaps.

It’s unfortunate that Derek Abbott, who created the page, only gives transliterations and doesn’t provide terms in the original alphabets, and doubly unfortunate that some of them are simply wrong (Russian pigs grunt хрю [khryu], not “hrgu”), but it’s a great idea and I hope someone will do it better (or Abbott will improve his page).


  1. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    In the very first line, he claims that bees go “bzzz” in Spanish, but there is no sound [z] in any Spanish I’ve heard. There is, of course, a letter z, variously pronounced [s] or [θ], neither of which sound like any bee that I’ve heard. I must remember to ask my wife what sound she thinks bees make.

    Also I see both “woof woof” and “ruff ruff” as the sounds medium sized dogs make. However, it seems to me that British medium sized dogs mostly say the former and their transatlantic cousins the latter.

  2. Yeah, it’s pretty amateurish. Which is understandable, but I’d sure like to see it done better.

  3. American crossword dogs usually go ‘arf,’ except for lapdogs and toys, which go ‘yip.’

  4. David Eddyshaw says:
  5. Alon Lischinsky says:

    @Athel Cornish-Bowden:

    bees go “bzzz” in Spanish, but there is no sound [z] in any Spanish I’ve heard

    Not as a phoneme or a regular allophone, but it does appear in this particular onomatopoeia, e.g., “Parece una abeja, bzzzzz. Una asustadísima abeja portadora de miel.” (Castillo, A. 1985. El que tiene sed. Buenos Aires: Emecé).

    Of course, I grew up with this, but I see nothing unusual in the situation. After all, most English dialects don’t have a phonematic glottal stop, and yet employ one in the interjection typically spelled ⟨uh-uh⟩.

  6. In my idiolect, I have a diphthong [ɪʊ] which exists only in ew, and something like a uvular trill which exists only in yeugh – both interjections of disgust, coincidentally. (I also use a vowel like [œ] in the latter word.)

  7. And English syllables don’t start with /vr/, but people have no problem with vroom as onomatopoeia.

  8. And as I’ve pointed out before, people with the cot-caught merger don’t merge Awwww! with Ahhhhh!

  9. I’ve heard emphatic ‘duh!’ with an implosive ɗ.

  10. @JC: Well, for some of us with a cotcaught merger, those would be distinct anyway. This is a quixotic quest against convention, but I wish people would refer to the thing found in the Western US as the low back merger. ENE and GA are alike in preserving two free low vowels where the West has one, but the common way of thinking seems to ignore this, positing that it’s ENE and the West which have some particular similarity.

  11. David Eddyshaw says:

    This is a recognised thing with ideophones in languages (like practically all African languages) which feature them as a regular part of speech. On the one hand they characteristically contain sounds and/or clusters not found in other vocabulary, but on the other hand are far from completely arbitrary, and can be described with their own regular phonemic patterns.
    (I was just reading a paper on this very point, but unfortunately can’t remember where it was just now.)

  12. Fair enough, although what I said wasn’t exactly wrong.

  13. David Eddyshaw says:

    No indeed: I was agreeing with you!

  14. January First-of-May says:

    About six years ago, I happened to talk about linguistics with a student from Dagestan. He told me that yes, in Dagestan a lot of villages have their own languages, and yes, there’s a lot of unusual sounds in them, and that, unfortunately, he doesn’t know any of the really small languages, but he does speak Avar.

    More on-topic, he also told me the Avar version of the sound that frogs make (the equvalent of Russian ква-ква and English “croak”), which contained one of those weird Caucasian phonemes (I could figure out it’s a sound that doesn’t come up in more usual languages, and I agreed that it imitated whatever actual frogs say a lot better than other languages’ versions, but wasn’t sure I’d be able to repeat it).

    Sadly I can’t remember what it was exactly except weird… but some googling tells me that it’s probably къуркъу, where къ apparently stands for /q͡χːʼ/ – the uvular ejective affricate (which, as it happens, is even weirder than I expected).

  15. David Eddyshaw says:

    I imagine Caucasian frogs produce vowel sounds with croaky voice.

  16. Eli Nelson says:

    I have the low back merger myself, and I can’t really tell if “ahhhh” and “awww” are identical. The latter does seem to have slightly more rounding, or backness, or something to it, but it’s subtle.

    Don’t Spanish speakers have [z] as an allophone of [s] before voiced consonants, like in mismo? (That is, in dialects where coda /s/ isn’t pronounced as [h].)

  17. That is, in dialects where coda /s/ isn’t pronounced as [h].

    I’ve been hearing those dialects for months now, on internet radio They initially drove me crazy. I suppose there is something, indicated here by [h], where the ‘s’ *should* be (i.e. where I expected it from Mexican Spanish, and where it is in the written word for all to plainly see).

    I’d never thought of it in the [h] way, not being of a phoneticianal inclination. When I say ‘mimo’ and ‘mi[h]mo’ in my head, I can hear the difference (it’s my head, after all), and I suppose ‘mi[h]mo’ is what those dialects have. (I’m not completely sure that ‘mimo’ is a valid example here, but there are a zillion other words in which the ‘s’ has been stomped on).

    I resolved my irritation in a different manner. – by modifying my expectations. I now hear ‘mismo’ and ‘mimo’, and think of them as different-sounding words with the same function and meaning. Only my fixation on Schrift created a problem that seemed to lead inexorably into the hellish regions of phonetic analysis.

  18. Eli Nelson says:

    Wikipedia says the consonant may simply be lost, so it seems likely that you have heard [mimo] with neither [s] nor [h]. There seem to be many possible realizations; I’ve heard that some dialects may even realize it as aspiration after the following consonant. This paper ( says it may show up as a simple lengthening of the following consonant (so mismo could be pronounced [mimmo]). Apparently it can also sometimes affect the quality of the preceding vowel, especially for “a,” “e” and “o.”

  19. David Eddyshaw: actually, that was meant for Lazar.

  20. @Eli Nelson: thanks for that info. My catch-all solution is, for me, a good functional equivalent to paying close online attention to, and carefully analyzing offline, the phonetic details. I simply accustomed myself to hearing +-‘mismo’,

    It can be just as useful to ignore details as to pay attention to them – depending on what you want to accomplish. I merely want to understand what is being said.

  21. Annette Pickles says:

    Speaking of frog-related words with interesting phonemes, there is Tigrinya እንቍርዖብ /ॽɨnkʷ’ɨrʕob/ “frog” with the ejective labiovelar /kʷ’/ (alas not matching the Arabic ضِفْدَع ḍifdaʿ with its own collection of distinctive phonemes).

    Although I live in Turkey, I have never been completely head-over-heels in love with the Turkish language (as I have been with Spanish and Russian and English and Japanese and Sanskrit and Irish and Tigrinya and Biblical Hebrew and so many others). Nevertheless, my vote in the entirely subjective category of Best Animal Onomatopoeia in Any Language goes to Turkish gıd gıd gıdak for the clucking chicken.

    (Gıd) gıd gıdak is on the chart at the University of Adelaide site—but only sort of, since the proper Turkish alphabetic characters were not used and so it doesn’t give a feel for the sound of the Turkish.

  22. He’s wrong on the sound of cats in Greek: it’s not “miaou,” it’s “niaou” (something like the Japanese version). Hence the standard expression describing something that should be self-understood, “What goes niaou niaou on the house roof?”

  23. Alon Lischinsky says:

    @Eli Nelson:

    Don’t Spanish speakers have [z] as an allophone of [s] before voiced consonants, like in mismo? (That is, in dialects where coda /s/ isn’t pronounced as [h].)

    my own native dialect is one of the latter kind, but I don’t recall ever hearing allophonic [z] in these contexts in the others I’m familiar with, including the European ones. Realisations of /s/ in that context may vary from full apico-aleveolar [s̺] to [x], [h] or gemination of the following consonant, but not [z]. (This is not to say [z] may not occur in other dialects, of course.)

  24. A quick look at the Hebrew shows two immediate errors from someone who got their English mixed in: A dog goes not woof woof but hav hav; a duck not quak quak but ga ga. Cf. about a million children’s books.

  25. Yep. And a crow goes kra kra, not krak krak; there’s no pigeon/dove sound that I know; I never heard a chicken one either, except kud kuda in obsolete kids’ books, and chuck chuck seems implausible. The wolf’s oou is completely off. What wolves? What’s ‘oou’?

  26. But what do butterflies say?

  27. The sound of silence, man, the sound of silence.

    To the ancient Romans, the crow was the bird of hope, because it says cras, cras ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’.

  28. Eli Nelson says:

    @Alon Lischinsky:

    As a non-native speaker, I am only familiar with allophonic [z] from explicit descriptions in things like textbooks. I have little to no actual experience listening to Spanish as spoken by native speakers, so it’s very helpful to hear from you. I found a paper that corroborates the existence of the [z] allophone, but that at the same time describes it as “stylistically determined, gradient and variable.” Another interesting detail from this paper: apparently some dialects have [z] as a realization of intervocalic /s/.

    Allophonic Variation in the Spanish Sibilant Fricative, Alison Garcia 2013

  29. I could swear I’ve heard the [z] allophone, but of course I can’t trust my memory.

  30. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve read about [z] in Spanish several times, but never heard it either.

    Bees do make [bzːː] ~ [mbzːː] in southern German where [z] and actually voiced [b] are otherwise absent. Of course the spelling resorts to bsss because z is firmly entrenched as [ts] – so firmly that even Zone and Ozon are pronounced with [ts].

    (…I have heard Zone with [z] in ~ rural East Germany. Reborrowed from Russian?)

    The Old Chinese pronunciation of “crow” is reconstructed as [qˁra].

    I agreed that it imitated whatever actual frogs say a lot better than other languages’ versions

    Which frogs? The diversity of frog sounds is easy to underestimate; the American ribbit is not made up, but fits a species quite well.

    Fire-bellied “toads” (Bombina) make what sounds like trying really hard to say [u] while keeping your mouth closed. That must have some relation to their German name Unke(n pl.).

  31. Annette Pickles says:

    Regarding the allophones of Spanish /s/, [karizma] here, maybe?

  32. David Marjanović says:

    Yes, and also la[z] naranjas. Between vowels, though, /s/ stays [s].

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