Comparing phoneme frequency, age of acquisition, and loss in aphasia: Implications for phonological universals

Cristina Romani, Claudia Galuzzi, Cecilia Guariglia, Jeremy Goslin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phonological complexity may be central to the nature of human language. It may shape the distribution of phonemes and phoneme sequences within languages, but also determine age of acquisition and susceptibility to loss in aphasia. We evaluated this claim using frequency statistics derived from a corpus of phonologically transcribed Italian words (phonitalia, available at phonitalia,org), rankings of phoneme age of acquisition (AoA) and rate of phoneme errors in patients with apraxia of speech (AoS) as an indication of articulatory complexity. These measures were related to cross-linguistically derived markedness rankings. We found strong correspondences. AoA, however, was predicted by both apraxic errors and frequency, suggesting independent contributions of these variables. Our results support the reality of universal principles of complexity. In addition they suggest that these complexity principles have articulatory underpinnings since they modulate the production of patients with AoS, but not the production of patients with more central phonological difficulties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Sep 15 2017


  • Aphasic errors
  • featural markedness
  • phoneme acquisition
  • phoneme frequencies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Medicine(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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