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In the Harry Potter books, people who take Polyjuice Potion get the voice as well as the physical appearance of the person they're imitating. Without needing to make an effort, they sound exactly like the person whose face they bear (source: Harry getting Goyle's voice in CoS).

What effect does this have on their accent? Or, on a larger scale, their language?

For instance, if someone Polyjuiced themselves into Hagrid (OK, you can't Polyjuice into a half-giant, so let's say a human with the same accent, to keep the pedants happy), would they immediately start speaking with a strong West Country accent? If Viktor Krum Polyjuiced himself into an Englishman, would his English suddenly be perfect? Going even further, if someone who only spoke English Polyjuiced themselves into Krum, would they then be fluent in Bulgarian? If someone Polyjuiced into Voldemort, would they be able to speak Parseltongue?

And if the answer is yes to any of these questions, could the language effects last beyond those of the potion itself? E.g. if I Polyjuiced myself into Krum enough times, would I eventually be able to speak Bulgarian just from memory?

(I'm excluding film canon for this one, because of course in the films people who take Polyjuice keep their own voice unless they make an effort to disguise it.)

  • I don't think so. HP and Ron couldn't get into the Slytherin common room. The password is arguably part of the Slytherin vernacular. – erip Jan 3 '16 at 2:07
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    Unless C&G were too dumb to remember their own passwords. :) – erip Jan 3 '16 at 2:10
  • As a present, here's a quote: "Harry shrugged, Hermione, however, answered: Harry thought that answering questions correctly was such a deeply ingrained habit she could not suppress the urge" – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 3 '16 at 3:54
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  • The accents stay for people who had them before drinking. So I assume they won't appear for people who didn't have them.

    “Bah,” said Fleur, checking herself in the microwave door, “Bill, don’t look at me – I’m ‘ideous.”
    - Fleur, Polyjuiced into Harry, displaying her Veelarench accent
    DH, Chapter 4, "The Seven Potters"

    We know that silent "H"s are Fleur's accent thing as she always eats them in "Harry":

    “Yes, and zat eez all very good,” snapped Fleur, “but still eet does not explain ‘ow zey know we were moving ‘Arry tonight, does eet?

  • No canon information on the languages, but knowing a language is mostly a mental skill/information, and people don't mentally change when Polyjuiced (Harry and Ron didn't go Crabbe-and-Goyle-dumb in CoS); nor do they magically obtain information known to the target (same thing in Cos). So I assume you can't use/learn a language that way.

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    You make a good argument, but it still must be weird to get somebody's "voice" without getting their accent. Doesn't seem to mean much beyond pitch and volume. – Rand al'Thor Jan 3 '16 at 11:33
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    @randal'thor - Don't know enough about french accent to even remotely be sure. And I liked that word :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 3 '16 at 15:58
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    @randal'thor pitch and volume define Voice,method of delivery of voice defines Accent . I think the answer's correct... “The Dark Lord forgives those who have served him most faithfully in the past,” said Hermione in a magnificent imitation of Bellatrix’s most contemptuous manner. “Perhaps your credit is not as good with him as mine is, Travers.” – prakhar londhe Jan 4 '16 at 8:04
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    Here Hermione imitates the manner, its not potion initiated... – prakhar londhe Jan 4 '16 at 8:04
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    The actual vocal chords and vocal tracts change to become those of the target—that’s physiology and anatomy and of course changes. But the way in which the taker uses their lingual, oral, and glottal muscles to create speech sounds is embedded in their brain, not in their physiology, and has to be altered consciously. Similarly, if you Polyjuiced into a ballet dancer, you’d have the muscle strength and the limberness of a ballet dancer—but you’d still be your clumsy old self. Having muscles and knowing how to use them optimally are two different things. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 15 '16 at 17:46
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There's no indication that polyjuice potion has an effect on the brain.

However we did learn something interesting about polyjuice in the Half Blood Prince when either Crabbe or Goyle blushes over Harry when polyjuice'd into a girl. You may take on people's physical responses to stimuli.

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Without making any canon-arguments, I'll say that the movies obviously had to keep the character's original voice, in order for the audience to tell the polyjuiced-character from the real one; this is standard for most "mind-swapping" fantasies on film. Meanwhile in the book, it was written in the text, e.g. "Harry looked in the mirror and saw Crabb's face and body" etc. so it was practical for voices to change, since the reader obviously can't hear it anyway. For this reason, I'd say that the books would take canonical precedence, and so the voice would change as well (which would make sense, since the vocal-chords are part of the body, but with magic anything's possible). Meanwhile accent would remain the same, since Polyjuice only changed the person's outward physical appearance.

  • The question actually says specifically that movie canon is excluded, so yes—the books not only take canonical precedence, they are the canon. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 15 '16 at 17:47

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