Phon. Lab., Dept. of Linguistics, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1543
For the purpose of testing hypotheses concerning cross-linguistic preferences in sound sequences, Maddieson and associates have compiled a database of lexical syllable frequencies in a geographically and genetically diverse sample of the world's languages. The present study is an analysis of the frequencies of onset-nucleus sequences to assess the prediction that there should be a preference for sequences which minimize articulatory effort, i.e., in which the movement between onset and nucleus is minimized. This hypothesis is one component of Lindblom's Theory of Adaptive Dispersion. Preferences in a language are determined by deviations from the expected frequency of a sequence determined on the assumption that the individual frequencies of the onset and nucleus are independent. Three classes of models of the preferences based on different approximations to the articulatory distance between onset and nucleus are evaluated. The first measure is in terms of differences in binary feature specifications, the second in terms of categorical articulatory scales, and the third utilizes quantified estimates of actual articulatory distances.