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Will Future Colonists on the Moon and Mars Develop New Accents?

Artist conception of a Mars colony
Artist conception of a Mars colony. Experts say settlers might develop a new accent on the moon and Mars. Credit: NASA / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

In the near future, people will begin living in places beyond Earth rather than merely taking short trips there. The main aim of exploring space aside from looking for aliens is to create human settlements on other planets.

The moon is expected to host the initial human colonies, and this could happen in the next few decades. However, the bigger, long-term plan is to make a home on Mars. This will become more doable once we have a lasting presence on the moon, reported Live Science.

The thought of people living anywhere besides Earth raises many questions for experts. Scientists will need to find solutions for how these future colonists will grow food, attain water, and adjust to living in lower gravity.

Nevertheless, there’s one question experts often overlook: what accents might space colonists develop?

New accents emerge by imitation

Everyone has some kind of accent linked to certain times, locations, languages, or groups on Earth. However, as we approach the era of space colonies, what future settlers from different planets will sound like is yet to be explored.

Jonathan Harrington, director of the Institute for Phonetics and Speech Processing at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, explained that accents develop through imitation. We remember what conversations sound like, and those memories can slightly shape the way we talk in the future.

These changes may happen without us realizing so. They may also take place during prolonged interactions with individuals who possess distinctive accents. This is why people who have spent considerable time in a new country or region often unknowingly undergo subtle changes to their accents.

In isolated situations, during which people with varied accents are cut off from the rest of the world, Harrington notes that the entire group tends to imitate each other. This results in the emergence of a new type of accent. The evolution of accents is a process that can unfold rapidly, particularly in smaller groups.

Colonists could develop subconscious yet audible accent changes

In 2019, Harrington led a study examining the phonetic shifts of eleven researchers who spent a winter isolated in an Antarctica lab. The team included eight individuals from England. There were five with Southern British accents and three with Northern British accents. Among them was also an individual from the U.S. Northwest, one from Germany, and one from Iceland.

As the experiment unfolded, the researchers observed each person undergoing phonetic changes. Moreover, the group, as a whole, began pronouncing certain sounds differently and using various parts of their mouths to produce these sounds. A new accent was taking shape.

On Mars or on the moon, settlers might unconsciously adopt audible changes to their accents in a mere few months. This is particularly true for Mars, where talking with Earth-dwellers is more difficult due to the roughly twenty-minute delay in the reception of messages between the two planets, explained Harrington.

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