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By Chen Xue | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-20 06:22
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Scientists in Antarctica have been found to develop their own accent and vocabulary after spending too much time on the continent. [Photo/TUCHONG]

Polar linguistic evolution

Living in Antarctica during winter isn't just about enduring harsh conditions — it's also a unique experience that may transform the way you speak.

Jonathan Harrington, a professor of phonetics and speech processing at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich in Germany, asked a group of 26 international researchers and support staff to read a list of 29 words before departing for Antarctica and four more times during their six-month stay.

By listening to the recordings, Harrington discovered that some vowels in the words had shifted after the individuals had been isolated in Antarctica for months. For example, they would pronounce the "ou" sound in words such as "flow" and "sew "at the front of the mouth.

They also invented their own slang — words like "dingle day" for good weather, "fod plod" for rubbish collection, "gonk" for sleep, and "big eye" for insomnia.

"Six months isn't very long, so we saw very, very small changes," Harrington told the BBC. "For accents to develop to the point where they are noticeable, it really takes a generational change."

Many young people in China are learning to take things lightly in order to maintain inner peace. [Photo/TUCHONG]

Embracing lighter living

Among China's younger generation, a burgeoning trend known as danxue, or a philosophy of life centered on taking things lightly, is gaining momentum. For example, during the recent Spring Festival holiday, many young people chose not to exert themselves to please their inquisitive relatives. Instead, they preferred to develop and deepen their connections with like-minded people who share similar values, rather than investing time and energy into maintaining superficial relationships.

This carefree attitude extends to various aspects of life. Numerous young people are no longer obsessed with seeking approval from others. They aren't disturbed by someone cutting in line in front of them, nor are they depressed when their job applications are turned down.

However, this approach doesn't imply that young people are indifferent or lazy. Rather, it underscores the importance of maintaining order and inner peace.

"It's a coping mechanism for young people dealing with real-life pressures," explained Wang Hui, a psychological counselor, in an interview with Haibao News, a media outlet based in Shandong province. "They feel as if they're constantly being thrown into a turbulent sea. To avoid being swept away by these 'currents', they must remain as steadfast as a rock at the seabed."

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