Currently I am working on a species of crab people who live semi-aquatic life styles, and I would like their languages to do two things:

  • Be easy to understand underwater
  • Be based somewhat on their biology

For the biology point, I have only so far excluded fricatives, as they have no nasal cavities. Their mouths are mostly human, with tongues and lips. I am currently trying to find what sounds would travel best underwater, and if there are any other noises I should exclude entirely or make them struggle to pronounce due to unfamiliarity.
I am new to conlanging as a whole so I don't really have anything good that I have been using as research beyond the IPA page from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Phonetic_Alphabet).

  • Well, the most important question of all is: What exactly do their mouths look like? You already noted they do not have nasal cavities (and I suspect you meant that nasals, not fricatives, are impossible for them to pronounce), but do they have a tongue, or rows of teeth, or lips, for example?
    – Cecilia
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 10:26
  • 2
    Get inspiration from underwater life forms on earth: Whales "sing", dolphins "whistle", and other animals use smacking or clicking sounds for communication.
    – Sir Cornflakes
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 9:38

1 Answer 1


I am thinking Dolphins and sonar, loud sharp noises that travel far even underwater. Maybe clicking noises with their tongues, maybe popping noises made by pursing lips and blowing air.

If it is what I am suspecting and the reason they are called 'crab' people is because they have distinctive claws of some kind then definitely include snaping their claws at least for emphasis. If they have human hands as well as claws you can have an amusing side note where a foreigner snaps with their fingers in an attempt to communicate and the crab people(s) are shocked because they only use their claws to make the louder noises so they didn't know finger snapping was possible.

Also if like crabs they have more then 2 pairs of limbs and some of them have fingers, you could always go for sign language. The crab people could also have antennae which could lend a hand signaling wise. You could also have the crab people make like bees/ants and dance to communicate, especially if they have pointy pod things for feet then crabs tap dancing to tell a story would be pretty interesting.

Depending on how alien and or crab like you want the crab people to be having the ability from other underwater creatures like color changing and light flashing could be an option (the language could even be mostly silent between crabmen).

You also haven't mentioned if magic is a factor, you could always explain talking underwater clearly/unimpeded away with special spells or abilities like having the crabs all share a hive mind or a psychic connection to a crab mind internet.

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