Cross-Language Predictors of Consonant-Vowel Syllables

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Abstract

In this paper we discuss cross-language findings that open up a new window onto language-culture relationships. The languages of the world vary considerably in the degree to which the syllables of a word are consonant-vowel (CV) in form. A previous cross-cultural study (Munroe et al. 1996) found that CV score (the percentage of CV syllables in the average word) can vary across languages from less than 20% to more than 80%. That study described theory and evidence linking high percentages of CV syllables to warmer climates and the absence of literacy. The theory and evidence offered here suggests that another factor—degree of baby-holding—is more predictive of CV scores than either climate or literacy. Mean number of syllables per word is also a predictor of CV scores. Other possible predictors that could be tested experimentally and otherwise are discussed, [cross-cultural, cross-language, morphology, syllables, baby-holding]

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