If the schwa is the most common sound (and vowel sound) in English, it makes me wonder for ages: what is the most common consonant sound in English, in regards to everyday use?

  • I forgot that there were multiple measures (e.g. "how many words contain this?"). I'm looking for: most common in typical usage (speech and writing). – Nihilist_Frost Oct 23 '15 at 18:23
  • So I guess that means token frequency? For example, do you want "a rose is a rose is a rose" to count as having 2 instances of /z/ (one in "rose," one in "is") or 5 (in rose, is, rose, is, and rose)? – sumelic Oct 23 '15 at 18:25
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    @sumelic 5 Z's in your sentence. I treat common words like "the" as bumping up the sound's frequency. And thus it's token frequency. – Nihilist_Frost Oct 23 '15 at 18:30
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    There is another study that it says it is [n] in spoken text: myweb.tiscali.co.uk/wordscape/wordlist/phonfreq.html – ermanen Oct 23 '15 at 18:30
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    There are also many sources that say that the most common consonant sounds in the world's languages are: /p/, /t/, /k/, /m/, /n/. – ermanen Oct 23 '15 at 18:33

According to this, the most common consonant sound in the British National Corpus is /n/, closely followed by /r/ (here representing any rhotic) and /t/.


I've asked myself this a lot as well. While the N, R and T sounds are most common according to the British National Corpus, I feel that S sound is more common.

Like a snake hiss. S, X and C make these sounds. You know when we were kids and wound try to speak in another language, or rather just repeat the sounds most prevalent to each language making up gibberish? That's what I would expect other people to who do not speak any English. I hear the S sound most, or it sticks out most anyway. We sound like snakes to others. :)

protected by Lawrence Dec 31 '17 at 23:52

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