Once, some people were singing their songs and dancing their dances while the last few who could speak the ancient language were alive. They were trying to record as many kinds of songs as they could - creation story songs, wedding songs, work songs, everyday life story songs. Everything went wrong the entire time they were recording. People disagreed on how to do the songs and dances, they had electrical problems, instruments kept disappearing. Finally, one of the elders called out "Stop, stop!" He said that the spirits were angry because there had been a death just days before and they were not singing the proper songs, funeral songs. So, the people stopped singing creation story songs, work songs and the like, and began singing songs of sorrowful happenings. Even when they didn't know the words to these songs, the people sounded out each of the syllables of each of the words in their singing and by doing so formed the lyrics perfectly.
These lost words which described the sorrow had turned into parts of words, "syllables of sorrow" and no matter the language, when we hear these syllables which usually descend in tone as does a major chord's slur downward into a minor third, we know that it is a "syllable of sorrow" even when we do not know the meaning of the words.
We always know when it's a sad song.