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ERC Project Stability and Change in Sound Patterns of the World's Languages: Typological, Physiological and Cognitive Factors

Why can some languages have words like tkkststt (Berber) or gvprckvnis (Georgian) even though in many languages these words are considered – literally – unpronouncable?

The goal of our project is to provide a new empirical foundation to our knowledge of sound patterns that are statistically underrepresented (typologically rare) in the world's languages. Typologically rare patterns have been claimed to be harder to learn, more difficult to produce and perceive, and more prone to undergo sound change. Yet others maintain that rare structures, once they have emerged from a convergence of historical accidents, do not differ from any other sound pattern of a given language due to the stabilizing force of grammar and learning. Understanding the status and the origins of typologically rare patterns remains one of the most profound challenges in linguistics, phonetics, as much as in psychology and cognitive science. There is, however, not enough empirical knowledge of the status of typologically rare patterns in languages that have stabilized these patterns in their synchronic grammars. We aim to fill this gap by focusing on typologically rare phonotactic patterns in several languages. Particular emphasis will be on the articulatory implementation of typologically rare patterns in interaction with speech perception.



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