# Is it possible to calculate the energy required to speak a word?

I was discussing with a colleague whether speaking would require more energy than communicating via instant message (GTalk, etc..).

If this is possible, then I'm particularly interested in whether certain sounds may consume more energy that others, and consequently could one language be more efficient than another.

• It may be more useful to consider the total amount of sound required to convey information. It has always seemed to me that Italian is particularly profligate. Example chosen at random: bread maker (English, 3 syllables); macchina per il pane (Italian, 7 syllables). But, of course, this isn't really a biology question. – Alan Boyd Sep 16 '14 at 13:09

## 2 Answers

For animals to check the amount of energy used for a certain behavior you can use a RESPIROMETER. It basically calculates the oxygen consumption.

In your case you could calculate for writing a sentence vs speaking the same sentence.

Regarding your second question: At least in birds more than the type of sound (the frequency modulation) what matters for energy consumption is the amplitude --> how loud is your sound.

• adding to this answer; hence you would feel more tired if you'd been shouting the whole day- – Nick Sep 17 '14 at 14:37

It could be theoratically possible if you fitted a glucose sensor to a person's body and asked that person to do nothing other than talk, for say a period of 1 minute. Then, when he/she talks, the amount of glucose metabolized during that time period could be measured, and subsequently, the no. of calories required for speech. Of course, the amount of calories required for breathing and even doing nothing (sitting, which consumes 75 calories of energy per hour) must be deducted.

• Sitting consumes more than negligible amounts of energy. In fact, sleep consumes energy. – anongoodnurse Sep 16 '14 at 16:28
• Most of the energy consumed by the body is required to keep the body temperature stable, and keep the brain alive. Even physical activity (if not extreme) doesn't come close to it. – vsz Sep 16 '14 at 17:25
• I don't think measuring glucose would be sensitive enough. – Tivie Oct 15 '14 at 18:00