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The typological frequency of consonants is highly predictive of their order of acquisition in English

  • Caleb Everett EMAIL logo and Sophie Schwartz
From the journal Linguistic Typology


The order of acquisition of consonants by children is impacted by both language-specific and species-wide factors. The latter factors also help to motivate the crosslinguistic commonness of some consonants. Here we explore the extent of overlap between crosslinguistic commonness and order of acquisition. We test how well the typological commonness of consonants is predictive of their order of acquisition in English, and vice versa, helping to shed light on the extent to which general cognitive and physical factors are explanatory vis-à-vis the acquisition of specific consonant types. We utilize several different sources to demonstrate that typological frequency and order of acquisition are indeed highly mutually predictive. We rely on acquisition data from English. We demonstrate that the crosslinguistic usage of a consonant is a better predictor of its order of acquisition than the language-specific factors tested.

Corresponding author: Caleb Everett [kheiləb ɛvɹɪt], Anthropology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, USA, E-mail:

  1. Author contributions: CE: Wrote paper and conducted statistical analyses. CE and SS: Collected data.


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Received: 2022-06-16
Accepted: 2023-01-14
Published Online: 2023-02-22
Published in Print: 2023-07-26

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