Are some languages happier than others?

Germans can be grumpy, unpleasant people–and it’s not because of post-Nazi guilt or a diet filled with bratwurst, says one American researcher. It’s because of their vowels. Hope College psychology professor David Myers says saying a vowel with an umlaut forces a speaker to turn down his mouth in a frown, and may induce the sadness associated with the facial expression. Myers added that the English sounds of "e" and "ah" naturally create smile-like expressions and may induce happiness. Clearly the solution for the Germans, much like the solution for every other people in the world, is to become more like Americans. The German Embassy would not comment on the findings, saying they were "too scientific."

Here is the link, which contains a few other tidbits as well.  Thanks to Alina Stefanescu for the pointer. 

Comments

Their nanny-state should abolish the umlaut... and force them to speak Italian. :-)

I had a funny experience. I went to a Thai resturant and heard a lot of old Motown Soul hits being played, but they were not by the original artists. The singing had a bizzare sibilant quality about it.
When I enquired I was surprised to find that there is a big music industry in South east Asia based upon
Old School Soul.
This is only tangentaly related to language, but I wanted to share.

You got the causality wrong: The German language evolved in that way so that German people can express their grumpiness as often as possible

Tyler,

thank you so much for revealing the cause of my constant grumpiness. In addition, your post gives me yet another reason why I prefer US blogs and media sources to German ones.

Then again, if your point is true: What about the Turks and Finns? Since umlauts are much more important in their languages than they are in German, those ones should be a lot grumpier and more unpleasant than we Germans are. And I seriously doubt that ;-).

Regarding the second story on that link. The headline seems to imply causation one way and the body of the article the other way. Clearly I need to have more first hand experience to understand.

According to his CV, the prof spent one summer in 1974 in Mannheim, Germany. A glance at his publications (none in German) and his CV does not show any further involvement with the German language. It is always great to "prove" your prejudices. 100 years ago, similar research went into cranial features.

The research is lingustically unsound too. The Umlaut are mostly in the first or second syllable and never at the end (when according to the "theory" of the professor the face freezes). (BTW German words have mostly more syllables as English ones. A Gettysburg Address in German is difficult to produce.)

Secondly, and more importantly, there is no common standard German pronunciation among the 90 million German speakers. The regional dialects are very strong. A blanket assessment is simply not worth the paper it's written on. But it suffices to humour ignorant Americans.

A few grumpy German descendants turned into cheerful Americans must exist in the backwoods of Holland, Michigan, where the professor resides. Perhaps, they can inform him about the now dying singing tradition of the Germans. How about those joyful Lieder?

Having taken a couple of years of German, I can safely say that it is a guttural demon language.

Seriously though, one thing I noticed about German was directness of the language. Goethe in the original German is much, much less flowery than the English translation. My language skills are quite horrible though, so I may be missing something a fluent, culturally aware speaker would see.

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