Some processes in sound systems of world’s laguages are more common, others are rare. Why?

Due to cognitive or historical influences?

The paper proposes a technique to estimate historical influences:

Paper in Phonology

Code: Github

Based on estimation of historical probabilities, some phonological processes are argued to be rare due to their complex histories and the low frequency of individual sound changes involved.

The technique is tested against independent synchronic samples. The estimates of the historical technique aligns well with independent synchronic samples.

Synchronic and historical probabilities.

The results have direct theoretical implications. Synchronic grammar should ideally derive all observed patterns and at the same time exclude impossible processes. Typological observations often prompt adjustments in grammar design.

The proposed framework suggests that some typological gaps are historical accidents that need not be encoded in synchronic grammars, and quantifies these gaps.