The feature-economy principle is one of the key theoretical notions which have been postulated to account for the structure of phoneme inventories in the world's languages. In this paper, we test the explanatory power of this principle by conducting a study of the co-occurrence of consonant segments in phonological inventories, based on a sample of 2761 languages. We show that the feature-economy principle is able to account for many important patterns in the structure of the world's phonological inventories; however, there are particular classes of sounds, such as what we term the 'basic consonant inventory' (the core cluster of segments found in the majority of the world's languages), as well as several more peripheral clusters whose organisation follows different principles.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press.