What is it about?

Some people say that Italian sounds sexy while German sounds rough, but what about languages like Páez or Tamil? Do people generally agree on whether a language sounds beautiful? Do their opinions depend on how familiar the language sounds, or on cultural stereotypes? In this paper, we collected 2,125 recordings of 228 languages from 43 language families and asked 820 native speakers of English, Chinese, or Semitic languages to rate how much they liked these languages, in order to separate these different factors.

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Why is it important?

Our results showed that participants' judgments were primarily influenced by how familiar they thought they were with the languages they heard and by preferences for the speakers’ voice qualities. These results provide valuable insights for better understanding the interaction between linguistic and cultural diversity.


This study began as a small side project, but thanks to the contributions of my excellent colleagues, it quickly grew both in size and depth. We were able to bring together our diverse research interests to create an interdisciplinary approach to the topic. Through this article, we aim to encourage people to reconsider how they perceive language as a phenomenon that is influenced by both universal and cultural factors.

Dr. Niklas Erben Johansson
Lunds Universitet

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Do some languages sound more beautiful than others?, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2218367120.
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