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

Cristina Romani*, Claudia Galuzzi, Cecilia Guariglia, Jeremy Goslin

*Corresponding author for this work

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)449-471
Number of pages23
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Issue number7-8
Early online date15 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way


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


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