Mandarin Chinese is the hardest language to whisper in, scientist reveals

When we whisper we only use our breath, rather than the vocal cords.

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The Independent Online

Why do we whisper? Sometimes it's to tell a secret, or lie, or simply because we don't want to disturb other people. 

But the technical process of how we whisper can actually be more difficult, depending on what language we're doing it in.

When we whisper we only use our breath, rather than the vocal cords.

This is done by keeping the cords open while speaking, so they don’t vibrate and create sound.

When it comes to whispering, whatever your language, it’s not so difficult to do in terms of forming the words, research scientist Marc Ettlinger tells the question and answer website Quora.

The problems generally arise when we have to voice the language, especially when we rely on intonation for meaning.

“Ultimately, lacking voicing is primarily challenging from the perspective of perception, not production. 

“We can ask, why is anything voiced at all? The reason is that it increases perceptibility: it increases sonority and serves to carry formant and pitch information, which is otherwise hard to hear for voiceless, a.k.a. whispered, segments,” he explained.

That means Mandarin Chinese, with its many tonal contrasts, is one of the most difficult languages to understand when whispered.

Similarly Hindi’s “consonant place contracts” cause whisperer’s trouble. 

Some studies have observed whispering in animals too.

An article on Audobon says researchers of cotton-top tamarins in New York’s Central Park Zoo observed them whispering to alert each other of danger.

It also notes some other whispering creatures, including the female croaking gouramis, which whispers to its mate to initiate sex, and the barbastelle, a type of bat which whispers so as not to alarm unsuspecting moths before eating them.