Paper Boys

Episode 31

Did F-words come from a change in diet?

A new study is shaking up the field of linguistics.

You may not realize it, but having an overbite makes it a lot easier to say words with “f” and “v” in them. Go ahead, bring your lower teeth forward and try saying an F-word (no, not that one) - it’s noticeably harder. A linguist named Charles Hockett once theorized that this means humans may not have always had these sounds in their languages, but his ideas were quickly tossed. However, a team of researchers from the University of Zurich have found new evidence that strongly suggests Hockett may have been right - and the change that brought about this ability to say F-words was a shift in diet thousands of years ago.

Check out the journal paper in Science here, the National Geographic article here and the Greenlandic language video here.

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