More difficult sounds require greater metabolic effort, which leads to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in exhaled breath. “No one language is responsible,” said one leading climatologist, “but we have to realize that we’re talking about upwards of six billion people, many of whom utter tens of thousands of phonemes daily. Even small savings [of articulatory effort] could add up quickly in reducing emissions.”
The problem is minor in many languages, experts say. English minimizes articulatory distance in several ways. Many English words use a “soft g,” actually a palato-
Such phonological and phonetic accommodations are being touted as a new solution to the problem of carbon dioxide emissions, widely believed by scientists to cause at least a portion of the global warming trend that’s been observed over the course of the last century. Activists from many languages are pointing fingers at speech communities that they say don’t respect the environment.
One such accusation was laid by a Quechua delegate addressing an audience of Yemeni Arabic speakers. The delegate maintained a positive overall message, highlighting how indigenous efforts to reduce vowel productions in uvular environments have succeeded in reducing articulatory expenditures in many Quechua dialects. Nevertheless he made it clear that the international community would expect shifts away from wasteful linguistic processes on the part of the Arabs.
The Yemenis say they’re being unfairly targeted, and won’t change their language. They say that their language is an important part of their ethnic, religious, and national heritage.
The Quechuas disagree. They point to efforts in other Arabic dialects that haven’t harmed the local culture. “The Iraqis use a velar stop; many Gulf dialects use a palato-
As with many linguistic disputes, a solution is not readily apparent. Some in the emissions-
“The fact that speakers of English