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Journal Articles Linguistic Typology Year : 2007

Similar Place Avoidance: A Statistical Universal


In recent years there has been interest in the phenomenon of “similar place avoidance” (SPA), particularly as concerns Arabic CCC radicals. Although little evidence has been presented outside Arabic, Hebrew, and perhaps Semitic in general, where roots with successive consonants sharing the same place of articulation are underrepresented, Frisch, Pierrehumbert & Broe (2004) hypothesize that similarity avoidance may represent a universal tendency. Originally unaware of the work of Pierrehumbert and her co-workers, we undertook an extensive cross-linguistic investigation of SPA and found impressive support for this notion. Whereas the Frisch et al study is largely interested in demonstrating the synchronic reality of SPA in Arabic, the present study originally derived from the diachronic concerns we have, particularly as concerns the subgrouping and historical relations between the diverse Niger-Congo languages spoken in Sub-Sarahan Africa. As documented in the following discussion, these diachronic concerns led us to move progressively further out from our primary concern, the Atlantic subgroup of Niger-Congo, arriving first at non-Niger-Congo Africa and then eventually outside of Africa itself. The result is a dramatic confirmation of SPA effects as a linguistic universal.
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halshs-00255870 , version 1 (01-09-2022)


  • HAL Id : halshs-00255870 , version 1


Konstantin Pozdniakov, Guillaume Segerer. Similar Place Avoidance: A Statistical Universal. Linguistic Typology, 2007, 11 (2), pp.307-348. ⟨halshs-00255870⟩
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