Causal modeling refutes Hockett’s hypothesis that bite configuration affects human sound evolution
Blasi et al. (Research article, 15 March 2019) argue in support of Hockett’s hypothesis – that languages of hunter-gatherers are less likely to develop labiodental sounds than those of agricultural societies due to the former’s heavywear diet that favors edge-to-edge bite, thereby decreasing likelihood of labiodental articulation. We reanalyze the data in Blasi et al. and find little to no support in favor of the Hockett’s hypothesis. The negative association between labiodentals and hunter-gatherers instead appears to be an artifact of labiodental decline with increasing distance from Africa, which is a general trend of language phonemes.