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Geometric Constraints on Human Speech Sound Inventories.

Dunbar E, Dupoux E - Front Psychol (2016)

Bottom Line: We investigate the idea that the languages of the world have developed coherent sound systems in which having one sound increases or decreases the chances of having certain other sounds, depending on shared properties of those sounds.We document three typological tendencies in sound system geometries: economy, a tendency for the differences between sounds in a system to be definable on a relatively small number of independent dimensions; local symmetry, a tendency for sound systems to have relatively large numbers of pairs of sounds that differ only on one dimension; and global symmetry, a tendency for sound systems to be relatively balanced.We also investigate the relation between the typology of inventory geometries and the typology of individual sounds, showing that the frequency distribution with which individual sounds occur across languages works in favor of both local and global symmetry.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique (ENS-EHESS-Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), Département des Études Cognitives, École Normale Supérieure-PSL Research University Paris, France.

ABSTRACT
We investigate the idea that the languages of the world have developed coherent sound systems in which having one sound increases or decreases the chances of having certain other sounds, depending on shared properties of those sounds. We investigate the geometries of sound systems that are defined by the inherent properties of sounds. We document three typological tendencies in sound system geometries: economy, a tendency for the differences between sounds in a system to be definable on a relatively small number of independent dimensions; local symmetry, a tendency for sound systems to have relatively large numbers of pairs of sounds that differ only on one dimension; and global symmetry, a tendency for sound systems to be relatively balanced. The finding of economy corroborates previous results; the two symmetry properties have not been previously documented. We also investigate the relation between the typology of inventory geometries and the typology of individual sounds, showing that the frequency distribution with which individual sounds occur across languages works in favor of both local and global symmetry.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

The vowel inventories of Bukiyip (left) vs. Eastern Mari (right). Feature dimensions are the same as in the right panel of Figure 2. The two inventories have the same size, number of non-redundant features, economy, and number of oppositions, but the level of imbalance in their distribution throughout the space differs. For each dimension, the number of sounds with each of the two values is counted using filled or empty circles; the empty circles represent the sounds that tip the balance of the given dimension toward being less equally distributed between [+] and [−]. The total number of empty circles is less in Eastern Mari than in Bukiyip, and, thus Eastern Mari has greater global symmetry.
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Figure 3: The vowel inventories of Bukiyip (left) vs. Eastern Mari (right). Feature dimensions are the same as in the right panel of Figure 2. The two inventories have the same size, number of non-redundant features, economy, and number of oppositions, but the level of imbalance in their distribution throughout the space differs. For each dimension, the number of sounds with each of the two values is counted using filled or empty circles; the empty circles represent the sounds that tip the balance of the given dimension toward being less equally distributed between [+] and [−]. The total number of empty circles is less in Eastern Mari than in Bukiyip, and, thus Eastern Mari has greater global symmetry.

Mentions: Global symmetry measures how well-balanced an inventory is on all of the feature dimensions on which it varies: whether all of the “mass” is distributed equally along all of the dimensions, or whether it is concentrated, like a loaded die, in a subpart of the hypercube. The level of imbalance can be measured by taking each non-redundant feature, finding the absolute difference in the number of sounds with the value [+] vs. [−], and then summing across all dimensions (Nim). The value of Nim may be relatively low (well-balanced) or relatively high (imbalanced) for an inventory, given its other properties. For example, a vowel inventory with four non-redundant feature dimensions with eight sounds and ten oppositions could have its sounds distributed in various different ways throughout the space, yielding logically possible Nim values of twelve, ten, or eight, leading to progressively lower overall asymmetry, or, alternatively put, greater global symmetry. Figure 3 shows that Eastern Mari (Uralic, Russia) has greater global symmetry than Bukiyip.


Geometric Constraints on Human Speech Sound Inventories.

Dunbar E, Dupoux E - Front Psychol (2016)

The vowel inventories of Bukiyip (left) vs. Eastern Mari (right). Feature dimensions are the same as in the right panel of Figure 2. The two inventories have the same size, number of non-redundant features, economy, and number of oppositions, but the level of imbalance in their distribution throughout the space differs. For each dimension, the number of sounds with each of the two values is counted using filled or empty circles; the empty circles represent the sounds that tip the balance of the given dimension toward being less equally distributed between [+] and [−]. The total number of empty circles is less in Eastern Mari than in Bukiyip, and, thus Eastern Mari has greater global symmetry.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4940385&req=5

Figure 3: The vowel inventories of Bukiyip (left) vs. Eastern Mari (right). Feature dimensions are the same as in the right panel of Figure 2. The two inventories have the same size, number of non-redundant features, economy, and number of oppositions, but the level of imbalance in their distribution throughout the space differs. For each dimension, the number of sounds with each of the two values is counted using filled or empty circles; the empty circles represent the sounds that tip the balance of the given dimension toward being less equally distributed between [+] and [−]. The total number of empty circles is less in Eastern Mari than in Bukiyip, and, thus Eastern Mari has greater global symmetry.
Mentions: Global symmetry measures how well-balanced an inventory is on all of the feature dimensions on which it varies: whether all of the “mass” is distributed equally along all of the dimensions, or whether it is concentrated, like a loaded die, in a subpart of the hypercube. The level of imbalance can be measured by taking each non-redundant feature, finding the absolute difference in the number of sounds with the value [+] vs. [−], and then summing across all dimensions (Nim). The value of Nim may be relatively low (well-balanced) or relatively high (imbalanced) for an inventory, given its other properties. For example, a vowel inventory with four non-redundant feature dimensions with eight sounds and ten oppositions could have its sounds distributed in various different ways throughout the space, yielding logically possible Nim values of twelve, ten, or eight, leading to progressively lower overall asymmetry, or, alternatively put, greater global symmetry. Figure 3 shows that Eastern Mari (Uralic, Russia) has greater global symmetry than Bukiyip.

Bottom Line: We investigate the idea that the languages of the world have developed coherent sound systems in which having one sound increases or decreases the chances of having certain other sounds, depending on shared properties of those sounds.We document three typological tendencies in sound system geometries: economy, a tendency for the differences between sounds in a system to be definable on a relatively small number of independent dimensions; local symmetry, a tendency for sound systems to have relatively large numbers of pairs of sounds that differ only on one dimension; and global symmetry, a tendency for sound systems to be relatively balanced.We also investigate the relation between the typology of inventory geometries and the typology of individual sounds, showing that the frequency distribution with which individual sounds occur across languages works in favor of both local and global symmetry.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique (ENS-EHESS-Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), Département des Études Cognitives, École Normale Supérieure-PSL Research University Paris, France.

ABSTRACT
We investigate the idea that the languages of the world have developed coherent sound systems in which having one sound increases or decreases the chances of having certain other sounds, depending on shared properties of those sounds. We investigate the geometries of sound systems that are defined by the inherent properties of sounds. We document three typological tendencies in sound system geometries: economy, a tendency for the differences between sounds in a system to be definable on a relatively small number of independent dimensions; local symmetry, a tendency for sound systems to have relatively large numbers of pairs of sounds that differ only on one dimension; and global symmetry, a tendency for sound systems to be relatively balanced. The finding of economy corroborates previous results; the two symmetry properties have not been previously documented. We also investigate the relation between the typology of inventory geometries and the typology of individual sounds, showing that the frequency distribution with which individual sounds occur across languages works in favor of both local and global symmetry.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus