Human language diversity and the acoustic adaptation hypothesis

Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics Vol/Iss. 25(1) Acoustical Society of America Published In Pages: 1-13
By Maddieson, Ian, Coupé, Christophe


Relative reliance on consonants vs. vowels in human languages cross-culturally will be associated with different environments (5).


The strongest association found was between an index of consonant heaviness (including such variables as high incidence of consonants at the onset of words, their endings, and in the total inventory of linguistic sounds) with a principal component weighting temperature, precipitation, and tree cover against rugosity and elevaation (languages spoken in areas of higher precipitation, tree cover, and mean annual temperature and lower elevation and rugosity are less likely to rely on consonants; correlation below). Neither size of vowel inventory or a second principal component weighting rugosity and elevation in the opposite direction produced significant results.


Test NameSupportSignificanceCoefficientTail
Linear regressionSupportedp < 0.001r-squared = 0.196UNKNOWN