What does the Dog Say?

Exploring Binary first Sounds, Vocal Anatomy and rich feature set of the Human Voice.

Sujatha R
4 min readAug 21, 2019

If you were to identify only 2 sounds.. perhaps like On and Off, what would those sounds be? As a laidback explorer of Yoga and Phonetics, I often tease my friends to experiment. Take a moment and try out. Your mouth is your laboratory and all it takes is a few wide stretches of the jaw and unleashing the voice inside.

Most likely you would have guessed ‘Aaa’ for an ‘open sound’. Feel the expansiveness and comfort as you utter ‘Aaa’. From the wide open mouth, let us make different shapes of our mouth and what we get is Bingo the vowel sounds ‘Eee’ ‘Uuu’ ‘Ooo’. On the contrary, in the closed state the lips come in contact and makes momentary sounds like ‘Pp’ ‘Bb’ ‘Mm’.

The cow bellows ambaa ambaa. The cat meows mee-oo mee-oo. The dog barks bau bau.. Amazing combination of open and closing sounds.

May be these sounds are so primordial and comforting that mother and father in different cultures are called using these binary sounds.

Ma in Hindi is mother, Mama Papa is common calling in many European languages. Tamil and Kannada are South Indian languages and parents are called as Amma Appa. Interestingly Koreans also call their mom and dad as Amma Appa and Abu in Arabic. Sujatha Ratnala Thank you. Nice article.

In Sanskrit, Mother is Matr, Amba and Father is pitr. In Farsi (Persian) Mother is mater and Father is pater, and baba, aba/abba is in Hebrew for father and Mother is Ema.

Is this just serendipity? Let us look into the anatomy of sounds. What causes it? Different kind of motions in the mouth, an opening for venting out air resonating chambers for the sound to be magnified.

In the case of vowels, it is totally an open state sound and can be stretched and generated for as long as the breath. Think of meditative sounds, the alaap of a raaga, a crying child or stretch in the opera music. At the heart of these sounds, there is a sense of infinity and expansiveness with the vowel sounds.


When the exhaled air tuft comes across constrictions, it produces momentary consonant sounds. The simplest constriction is that of closing the lips.

  • Constrictions of throat: ka-ga
  • Contact of tongue and lower palette:ta-da
  • Tongue and upper palette: cha-ja
  • Contact of the teeth: tha-dha
  • Contact of the lips: pa-ba-ma
  • Hissing like thermal sounds due to smallow constrictions between teeth and tongue:sa-sha-ha.

As Humans, we have the ability to generate a variety of constrictions and thus have a rich feature set of sounds. Due to the limited anatomy of the mouth and the cognitive skills to operate different effects, perhaps animals and birds are limited to one kind of sound. We have seen the lip based sounds of cats, dogs and cows probably due to the soft and long lip line. A horse neighs Nayyy .. A bird tweets kuu kuu..A snake hisses sssss thus exploring the Nose Throat and the rattling Thermal feature set suiting their anatomy.

In Sanskrit, the vowels represent infinity and is mirrored in the words such as anant, Akash, aadhi. The sound ‘ma’ has a sense of finiteness and limits associated perhaps due to the closure in the mouth. It is easily seen in the words ‘maya’, ‘maatra’, mitra’, ‘mruthyu’, ‘amrit’, ‘Nimith’, ‘mortal’, ‘math’, ‘limit’, ‘metre’, ‘mile’ etc.

In Sanskrit, Mother is Matr, Amba, Father is pitr, brother is bratr, daughter is bhagini, son daughter is putra, putri.. all these begin with the lip sounds ma, pa, ba. Is it more than a casual coincidence? Probably the relationships we make in our limited time span in our lives.

The culmination and the perfect envelope of the binary sounds is the meditative OM. It starts with the expansiveness of Aa emanating from the belly meandering to Uuu reverberating in the chest and culminating with the tranquil Mmm resonating in the head. Beautifully the exhalation pathway switches from mouth to nose and these audio transitions produces an expansive layer of surround sense and overtones..

ps: The novel ideas related to binary classification represented in this article are solely the Author’s and may not be found elsewhere.

Related Articles: https://medium.com/@sujatha.ratnala/decoding-the-a-b-c-ds-3733ca6cd593



Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns