Preferred sound groups of vocal iconicity reflect evolutionary mechanisms of sound stability and first language acquisition: evidence from Eurasia

Johannes Dellert, Niklas Erben Johansson, Johan Frid, Gerd Carling

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskriftPeer review

Sammanfattning

In speech, the connection between sounds and word meanings is mostly arbitrary. However, among basic concepts of the vocabulary, several words can be shown to exhibit some degree of form–meaning resemblance, a feature labelled vocal iconicity. Vocal iconicity plays a role in first language acquisition and was likely prominent also in pre-historic language. However, an unsolved question is how vocal iconicity survives sound evolution, which is assumed to be inevitable and ‘blind’ to the meaning of words. We analyse the evolution of sound groups on 1016 basic vocabulary concepts in 107 Eurasian languages, building on automated homologue clustering and sound sequence alignment to infer relative stability of sound groups over time. We correlate this result with the occurrence of sound groups in iconic vocabulary, measured on a cross-linguistic dataset of 344 concepts across single-language samples from 245 families. We find that the sound stability of the Eurasian set correlates with iconic occurrence in the global set. Further, we find that sound stability and iconic occurrence of consonants are connected to acquisition order in the first language, indicating that children acquiring language play a role in maintaining vocal iconicity over time.
Originalspråkengelska
Antal sidor9
TidskriftPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volym376
Nummer1824
DOI
StatusPublished - 2021 mars 22

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Jämförande språkvetenskap och lingvistik

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