1. Which place of articulation is most common for oral pulmonic stops in the world's languages?
  2. In order, which places of articulation are the LEAST common in the world's languages?
  3. In order, which places of articulation are the MOST common in the world's languages?
  • I'm afraid this question isn't really answerable without specifying more about what you consider a place of articulation. It's pretty cut-and-dried whether something is a bilabial stop or not, for example, but languages can have divide the space behind the teeth and in front of the uvula into any number of different categories. If a language considers all that space to be a single place of articulation, as Hawai'ian does, how do you decide what to label it? "Alveolar", "palatal", and "velar" are all reasonable names to chose.
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 23, 2023 at 22:58
  • Your question could use more research. Here's a link that might help. phoible.org Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


Using the IPA classification, the most common place of articulation is the dental-alveolar-postalveolar (lingual) column. Hawaiian has a phoneme whose realization ranges between lingual and velar in free or dialectal variation, which is similar to Samoan except that /t/ vs. /k/ seems to be uncontroversially distinctive one you include loanwords. Velars are missing in Xavante, Tahitian, and various Skou languages. It is possible in a neck-and-neck race with a better database on inventories we would find a tie between lingual and velar.

Pharyngeal is the rarest place of articulation. IPA does not treat epiglottal as a distinct place of articulation, and data reports do not generally and reliably distinguish pharyngeal vs. epiglottal. Linguolabial might end up being rarer, though it is not in the set of IPA places of articulation, and in a context between epiglottal and linguolabial, there is the problem of what things you count.

W.r.t. what things you count, if you are counting languages, you might count Arabic as one language, or some hundred or more languages, taking into consideration local dialects. Also note that labiodental is very rare compared to bilabial, except that labiodental fricatives are much more common that bilabial fricatives – frequency is not uniform across manners of articulation.

  • What about the linguolabial trill (aka. blowing the raspberry)? :P
    – Fomalhaut
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 5:11

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