The backstory

Ever since reading Tintin publications whilst ~ above French exchange and noticing that in the French edition Snowy does no bark ‘woof woof’ however instead ‘wouah wouah’ I have been fascinated in ~ how different languages communicate onomatopoeic pet sounds.

You are watching: What sound does a goat say

A couple of years ago I determined to execute some research and also after badgering friends, teachers and also friends of girlfriend to market up your bilingual friends, I had the ability to discover much more about how animal sounds differ around the world. From this research study I composed a sample chapter because that a publication that never came into being.

It seemed a shame to waste all that details so I thought my blog could be the perfect ar to re-superstructure it. End the next few weeks I will certainly be publishing blog articles focusing on a different animal sound every week. Ns hope you enjoy component one top top sheep:


Picture a dog. Imagine the dog has captured sight of a cat and is currently barking enthusiastically. Visualise those doggie speech bubbles floating through the air. If you are an English-speaker ns bet the dog to be barking ‘woof, woof’. Yet ask a French, Japanese or Russian person and also they will certainly argue that is barking something rather entirely.

Why is it the these onomatopoeic animal sounds present such differences about the world?

Consider how we learn animal sounds. They are frequently one the the an initial sounds we are taught together children. Even prior to we can say the word ‘dog’, we room taught come mimic the bark. Plenty of children’s books and nursery rhymes revolve around animals and the noises lock emit.

As a parent myself i know how it becomes an impulse practically every time I see an animal to parrot the noise in ~ my children and also delight in them sounding it ago at me (so lot so I typically finding myself mooing in ~ cows also when there room no children around).

So the is from our parents the we first learn come associate details animals with details sounds. However, family history and circumstance may dictate one child discovering that a dog states ‘arf arf’ while an additional household (perhaps populated by a pet Yorkshire Terrier) can be teach ‘yap yap’ but an ext on dog later.

Ultimately, together we are ushered right into formal education and also made to join in through a rousing rendition of ‘Old MacDonald’ the animal noises we learn end up being standardised until we room all to sing from, occasionally literally, the same hymn sheet.

Thus from our beforehand years the becomes 2nd nature to attach a specific sound to each animal, so lot so that it seems quite wrong once we come across linguistic alternatives.

The pantheon of animal sounds deserve to reveal exciting divergence and at time convergence throughout the nations. Let us begin then v a sound that inspires widespread linguistic agreement: the bleat the a sheep.



A sheep

In English we usage the slightly nebulous ‘baa’. My research has indicated that we are the just language to use this specific sound. Swedish offers the visually comparable ‘bää’, however the ä sound in sweden is pronounced much more like ‘ai’.

Baa’ has a long historic root in the English language – records suggest that together far earlier as the 1580s a children toy in the shape of a lamb was named ‘baa’. The much-loved and enduring nursery rhyme ‘Baa Baa black Sheep’ probably accounts for Britons’ solid attachment come the word. The happiness was first noted in written documents in Tom Thumb’s Pretty tune Book c.1744 however is most likely much older than this, The Oxford dictionary of Nursery Rhymes suggests it originates from c.1275 as soon as an export taxation on wool was introduced. In 1888 Rudyard Kipling supplied the rhyme as the title for an autobiographical brief story. All this has probably ensured a an especially strong association and agreement the in the English language lamb bleat ‘baa’.

The rest of the people (and I have to say, they have actually a point) largely err towards lamb making a ‘beeee’ or ‘meeee’ sound – for this reason why have actually the English stuck to ‘baa’? ns wonder if in component it is to differentiate in between the sound that a sheep makes and that the a goat (a differentiation which most likely only ended up being useful for singing songs such as ‘Old MacDonald’ wherein each animal needs their own distinctive sound). Goat and also sheep are both stated to “bleat”, however a goat in English would certainly say ‘naa’, thus a sheep needs to be noticeably different, therefore ‘baa’. It is interesting to keep in mind that according to the American legacy Dictionary in American Englishbaa’ is offered for both sheep and goats.

Globally the main linguistic difference comes in whether the sheep is viewed to bleat v a ‘b’ sound or one ‘m’ sound. In most Asiatic languages the ‘m’ sound is used. The Japanese speak ‘meeeh’, in Korean that is ‘me-e’, Mandarinmie’ and also Thaimae mae’.

However, most European language opt for a ‘b’ sound thus Russian – ‘be-e-e’, Dutchbeeeh’, Italianbeh’, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and also Croatian all making use of ‘beee’.

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This appears to prove that lamb universally emit a clear noise that has actually inspired basic linguistic agreement.

What noise carry out you usage for a sheep? have I made any mistakes or left the end an exciting linguistic difference? Please leave a comment!