|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
How Vowels Control Your Brain
Consider this: Chances are, the name of your favorite flavor of ice cream contains lots of creamy-sounding “O” and “A” sounds, while your preferred cracker has a name with light, crispy-sounding “E” and “I” sounds in it. Why would this be? According to the ever-entertaining Robert Krulwich on his NPR blog, Krulwich Wonders, “Words with front vowels ("I" and "E") tend to represent small, thin, light things. Back vowels ("O" "U" and some "A"s ) show up in fat, heavy things.”
Apparently, the difference lies in the part of your mouth that makes the vowel sound. "I" and "E" vowel sounds are made by putting your tongue forward in the mouth, while with “O” and “A” sounds your tongue depresses a bit in the back of your mouth. What makes this so fascinating is that the vowel sounds in words can actually control the way people think about the words – across languages, people tend to associate “front” vowel sounds with light, small things, and “back” vowels with dark, heavy, large things. Krulwich has more on his blog about why linguists think this might be (along with some very entertaining illustrations).
How Your Mind Controls Your Life
Exercise Your Brain: Read!
Please note that Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities have no affiliation with and do not endorse those entities, projects, or websites referenced above, which are provided solely as a courtesy. You should conduct your own independent investigation before using the services of any such entities, projects, or websites. Information is provided for your reference only.