On the Origin of Internal Structure of Word Forms

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Science  21 Apr 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5465, pp. 527-531
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5465.527

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This study shows that a corpus of proto-word forms shares four sequential sound patterns with words of modern languages and the first words of infants. Three of the patterns involve intrasyllabic consonant-vowel (CV) co-occurrence: labial (lip) consonants with central vowels, coronal (tongue front) consonants with front vowels, and dorsal (tongue back) consonants with back vowels. The fourth pattern is an intersyllabic preference for initiating words with a labial consonant–vowel–coronal consonant sequence (LC). The CV effects may be primarily biomechanically motivated. The LC effect may be self-organizational, with multivariate causality. The findings support the hypothesis that these four patterns were basic to the origin of words.

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