Do people often blow out the air from their lungs when living in cold climatic conditions to keep their lungs warm?

I ask this question because it could connect to how people in different areas construct linguistic sounds.

For example, the Germanic families of Language (German, English,...) use a lot of air from the lungs to construct the sound?

Is that because the Europeans living in cold climate often blow out a lot of air from the lung to keep warm and as a result gradually they construct air-driven linguistic sounds?

For people living in warm climates (ex: Sino-Tibetan language like Chinese, Thai), we mostly use the tongue to construct sounds, and we use very little air from our lungs to make sound.

I posted this question to some forums & some people said it’s baloney. However, there's one thing for sure, the environment shapes how local people construct sound. People construct the sound like that because it is constrained by something. One thing can not stand alone, it must be the karma or outcome of something else.

  • $\begingroup$ There's warm parts of Europe and cold parts of China... a more proper way to test it would be to test the same language in hot and cold areas and/or at different seasons $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    Feb 4, 2016 at 7:08

2 Answers 2


In a cold climate, do people often blow out the air from their lungs a lot when living in the cold condition to keep their lungs warm?

No, and it wouldn't make any sense: breathing more means inhaling more cold air that needs to be warmed up, so the result is a heat loss. The more so, as cold air (< 0°C) has a low water vapor pressure, while the lung likes to have the air at body temperature and well moistened. Which means that you also loose the vaporization heat of the water.

The function of moistening and heating the cold and dry air as well as recollecting some of the heat and water when breathing out is done by the nose. So the sensible (and done) thing in cold weather is to avoid breathing by mouth and instead keep your mouth shut and breathe by nose.
Nevertheless, neither German nor English, nor any of the Scandinavian Germanic languages is spoken through the nose.

My experience is that cold air (personal minimum: -40 °C) in the mouth is very unpleasant, and makes me cough as it is still cold when it arrives in the throat, but of course breathing out by mouth is less of a problem. But breathing out by mouth and in by nose means that the nose cannot recollect the heat and moisture from the outgoing air.

In any case, the amount of breathing is linked rather to oxygen demand and $CO_2$ to be gotten rid of), and even the fastest speaking people I know do not get close to hyperventilation by speaking, not even speaking German or English. Which means that speaking Germanic languages needs less breath to produce the sounds than what you need to breathe for physilogical reasons even at not much above base rate metabolism (sitting while talking) anyways. Which would imply that the breathing difference between Germanic and Sino-Tibetan languages would not cause an important driving force in language evolution.

A side point is that I don't agree with your concept of cold climate. Both Germany and England are counted as temperate climate. Actually, Frankfurt has higher minimum temperature all year round than Lhasa (as you mentioned Tibetan in your language family). Also note that the Indo-Germanic language family covers a range of climates from tropic to polar just as the Sino-Tibetan covers some cold regions as well), so maybe language families that are spoken only in polar regions vs. such that are spoken only in tropic regions would be better to look at (see e.g. the Wikipedia language family map).

However, there are probably some confounding influences that need to be taken into account. In cold weather, you do not sit or stand around chatting with people as much. And in the polar climates, historically farming has hardly been possible. So you have populations where hunting has been very important for survival, and regions with very low population density. Both mean that on average, you'll be silent instead of talking. As for having a chat with someone, you'd ask them in - or the length of the chat is limited by temperature.
Which means that if cold is a driving force for the type of pronouciation that evolves, it would be a rather weak link. And in any case, speaking less will overcompensate all these breathing differences.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I personally agree with the OP since taking slower, deeper breaths lowers the minute volume (because of dead space), so it would actually slow the rate of cooling. $\endgroup$
    – user73773
    Dec 26, 2022 at 19:37

Heat loss hypothesis:

I would rather think that blowing while speaking means that one has to inspire often and therefore he would lose much heat by convection. According this hypothesis, I would rather expect to see southern people blowing lots while speaking.

Metabolism hypothesis:

We might say that at low temperature the metabolism increases and therefore the consumption of oxygen should increase. As shown here for example. This would make blowing much air more profitable for people living in cold environments.

Articulation hypothesis:

One might as well hypothesize that the cold would tend to make articulation more complex and using much air would help to be well understood.

Note: It would be interesting to look at many local scales if it is indeed true that the colder the more air people use. At global scale, I am afraid that the observations are quite dependent and statistically speaking, there is not much evidence that cold environment correlates with blowing much air while speaking

  • $\begingroup$ But in warm, particularly in tropic climates, you don't loose as much heat by breathing as with cold (and therefore also dry) air: the incoming air is warm and moist already. And I suspect that loud and clear pronounciation of Germanic does not need more breath, but rather better resonance and other techniques that probably do not lead to more breathing (otherwise, how could one survive a long monologue on a theatre stage without hyperventilation) $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2013 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ @cbeleites Well, in my answer I assumed (as did the OP) that germanic languages need more breath. But I have no idea if this is true. In your answer you criticize this assumption and I agree with you. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Nov 24, 2013 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ I guess the main point is that 'blowing out air' doesn't help to 'keep the[ir] lungs warm' anyways as you explain in your 1st paragraph. I just added "experimental" hints that the things one does do to save heat in cold air anyways do not include speaking... $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2013 at 16:09

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