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Cross-language distributions of high frequency and phonetically similar cognates

Schepens, J., Dijkstra, T., Grootjen, F., & Van Heuven, W. J. (2013). Cross-language distributions of high frequency and phonetically similar cognates. PLoS One, 8(5): e63006. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063006.
The coinciding form and meaning similarity of cognates, e.g. ‘flamme’ (French), ‘Flamme’ (German), ‘vlam’ (Dutch), meaning ‘flame’ in English, facilitates learning of additional languages. The cross-language frequency and similarity distributions of cognates vary according to evolutionary change and language contact. We compare frequency and orthographic (O), phonetic (P), and semantic similarity of cognates, automatically identified in semi-complete lexicons of six widely spoken languages. Comparisons of P and O similarity reveal inconsistent mappings in language pairs with deep orthographies. The frequency distributions show that cognate frequency is reduced in less closely related language pairs as compared to more closely related languages (e.g., French-English vs. German-English). These frequency and similarity patterns may support a better understanding of cognate processing in natural and experimental settings. The automatically identified cognates are available in the supplementary materials, including the frequency and similarity measurements.
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