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How we speak may be tied to what we eat

Here's something to think about as you enjoy your favorite holiday meals: The food we eat may have played more of a role in our lives than sustenance (and, hopefully, tastiness) alone. Researchers have recently discovered that diet may have played a role in the very language we speak.

Hunter-gatherers’ jaws had a different shape and musculature than the jaws of humans after the agricultural revolution, when eating grains and softer meals like porridge became widespread. Following a hypothesis by linguist Charles Hockett, researchers have found that the new jaw shape that evolved made it easier for humans to make “f” and “v” sounds.

Today, these sounds are present in at least half of the living languages around the world. But contemporary hunter-gatherer languages contain about 75% less “f” and “v” sounds than languages spoken by agricultural cultures.

Let’s not forget, “f” and “v” make up some very important words, including that linguistic marvel, the “f” word!

Read on to learn more about the study, as well as a few very obscene, very interesting medieval monikers.

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Contact Our Writer – Alysa Salzberg

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