Animal Speak: Beastly Language

Per distinguere la miriade di suoni emessi dagli animali, in inglese si ricorre a un curioso adattamento delle loro onomatopee.

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The English language has come up with its own inventive ways to describe the wide range of sounds animals produce. Many such words are onomatopoeic, attempting to imitate in simplified form the unique sound that an animal makes to communicate with another.

PET SOUNDS

Dogs and cats are the animals that humans feel closest to, and we often jump to conclusions about what they are trying to communicate! Dogs typically ‘bark’ (or ‘go woof’) perhaps to show joy or perhaps as a warning. They may also ‘growl’ to show anger, or ‘howl, a long sad sound that they inherited from their ancestors, the wolves, who used it to communicate over long distances. Cats ‘ meow’, a sound used to interact with humans that can have various meanings , or ‘purr’ as a way to signal comfort. 

BIRD SONG

Birds communicate through a wide variety of melodious sounds. The most frequently used words for them are ‘chirp’ or ‘whistle’. Chirping is to emit short, sharpsounds, whereas whistling consists of longer ones. Young or small birds also ‘tweet', a weak chirping sound. On a farm, we can hear pigs ‘oink’, ’snort’ or ‘grunt’, horses ‘neigh’, sheep ‘bleat’, cows ‘moo’, ducks ‘quack’, hens ‘cluck’, and roosters‘crow’, emitting a morning ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ sound.

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WILD ANIMALS

In the wild, owls ‘hoot’, and frogs or toads‘croak’ or ‘go ribbit’. Lions famously ‘roar’ (this mighty sound can be heard up to eight kilometres away), monkeys ‘chatter’, elephants ‘trumpet’ through their trunk, but also ‘rumble’, a low-frequency sound that they use to interact with other members of their group. 

INSECTS

Species that lack vocal chords can also communicate. Insects emit a wide array of sounds called ‘stridulations’ and ‘raspings’. Stridulation results from rubbing together certain body parts: grasshoppers and crickets produce a sound by scraping their legs with their wings. Beetles make a rasping sound by rubbing a body part against a hard surface. Bees produce a distinctive buzzing sound through their fast wing movements. 

EVOCATIVE 

Snakes ‘hiss’ and ‘rattleto warn off an intruder; hissing happens when air passes through a snake’s windpipes; rattlesnakes warn their enemies by vibrating the segments at the end of their tails. Whales, notably humpback whales, communicate through their well-known ‘songs’, eerie vocal sequences that can go on for hours, and are apparently produced by a special voice box.  

ENIGMATIC SOUNDS

Each species of the animal kingdom has a remarkable communication system that reflects the complexity of its social structure. Each sound that an animal makes carries its own meaning, depending on its intention. A sound can express a wide variety of emotions, from excitement to distressto contentment, and be used in various ways: to signal danger, attract potential mates, assert dominance, or claim territory.

ANIMAL

ITALIAN

SOUND

ITALIAN

dogs

cani

bark

abbaiare

cats

gatti

meow

miagolare

birds

uccelli

chirp

cinguettare

pigs

maiali

oink

grugnire

horses

cavalli

neigh

nitrire

donkeys

asini

bray

ragliare

sheep

pecore

bleat

belare

cows

mucche

moo

muggire

ducks

anatre

quack

fare qua qua 

hens

galline

cluck

chiocciare

roosters

galli

crow

cantare 

owls

gufi

hoot

bubolare

frogs

rane

croak

gracidare

lions

leoni

roar

ruggire

monkeys

scimmia

chatter

gridare

elephants

elefanti

trumpet

barrire

snakes

serpenti 

hiss

sibilare 

whales

balene

sing

cantare

 

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Questo articolo appartiene al numero June 2024 della rivista Speak Up.

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