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Human diet changes influenced consonant prevalence distribution in languages

March 19, 2019

Labiodental sounds, such as F and V, have been known to be rarely met in hunter-gatherer languages. To understand how this has occurred, the authors undertook a massive statistical inquiry. 2,400 languages were analyzed, and a biomechanical model of mouth and lip movements was created.

The following explanation was put forth - when transition from hunter-gatherer society to agriculture and animal husbandry happens, diets also undergo major changes; specifically, foods become softer. This leads to changes in bite configuration and thus facilitates easier pronunciation of labiodentals.
-end-
Damian Blasi is also an employee of the University of Zurich, Yale University, and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

Quantitative Linguistics Laboratory was established at Kazan University in 2014.

Kazan Federal University

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