Structural Phylogenetics and the Reconstruction of Ancient Language History

  title={Structural Phylogenetics and the Reconstruction of Ancient Language History},
  author={Michael Dunn and Angela Terrill and Ger P. Reesink and Robert A. Foley and Stephen C. Levinson},
  pages={2072 - 2075}
The contribution of language history to the study of the early dispersals of modern humans throughout the Old World has been limited by the shallow time depth (about 8000 ± 2000 years) of current linguistic methods. Here it is shown that the application of biological cladistic methods, not to vocabulary (as has been previously tried) but to language structure (sound systems and grammar), may extend the time depths at which language data can be used. The method was tested against well-understood… 
Structural Phylogeny in Historical Linguistics: Methodological Explorations Applied in Island Melanesia
Using various methods derived from evolutionary biology, including maximum parsimony and Bayesian phylogenetic analysis, we tackle the question of the relationships among a group of Papuan isolate
The shape and tempo of language evolution
This work evaluates the relative evolutionary rates of both typological and lexical features in the Austronesian and Indo-European language families and presents the first global network of languages based on this typological information.
A Phylogenetic Analysis of Stable Structural Features in West African Languages
1.IntroductionNorthern sub-Saharan western Africa ("West Africa") is known for its great linguistic diversity, and also for its unclear linguistic past. Dating back to the 19th century, lexical
Typology and the Linguistic Macrohistory of Island Melanesia
Recent years have seen much discussion on the use and meaning of typological argumentation when reconstructing language history and language relations. We address the conclusions and methodology of a
Support for linguistic macrofamilies from weighted sequence alignment
  • G. Jäger
  • Linguistics
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 2015
Findings regarding the automatic classification of Eurasian languages using techniques from computational biology (such as sequence alignment, phylogenetic inference, and bootstrapping) are reported, finding that there is solid support for the hypothetical linguistic macrofamilies Eurasiatic and Austro-Tai.
Cladistic Parsimony, Historical Linguistics and Cultural Phylogenetics
This work responds to two common criticisms of cultural phylogenies: that cultural artifacts cannot be modeled as tree-like because of borrowing across lineages, and that the mechanism of cultural change differs radically from that of biological evolution.
Deep relationships among California languages
A variation of the linguistic relatedness metric and multilateral clustering procedure developed by Kessler (1999, 2001) is used to study California language phylogenetics to evaluate the utility of this methodology for identifying deep relationships, and to re-examine the evidence for Hokan and Penutian groupings.
Does Lateral Transmission Obscure Inheritance in Hunter-Gatherer Languages?
The results debunk the myth of high borrowing in hunter-gatherer languages and suggest that the evolution of these languages is governed by the same type of rules as those operating in large-scale agriculturalist speech communities.
Tracing the roots of syntax with Bayesian phylogenetics
It is shown that Bayesian phylogenetics can provide quantitative answers to three important questions: how word orders are likely to change over time, which word orders were dominant historically, and whether strong inferences about the origins of syntax can be drawn from modern languages.
Coevolution of languages and genes.
  • B. Pakendorf
  • Biology, Linguistics
    Current opinion in genetics & development
  • 2014


Toward a phylogenetic chronology of ancient Gaulish, Celtic, and Indo-European
  • P. Forster, A. Toth
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  • 2003
The phylogenetic network reveals an early split of Celtic within Indo-European, and suggests that the Celtic language arrived in the British Isles as a single wave (and then differentiated locally), rather than in the traditional two-wave scenario.
Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin
An analysis of a matrix of 87 languages with 2,449 lexical items produced an estimated age range for the initial Indo-European divergence of between 7,800 and 9,800 years bp, in striking agreement with the Anatolian hypothesis.
Language trees support the express-train sequence of Austronesian expansion
This analysis uses this analysis to test competing hypotheses—the “express-train” and the “entangled-bank” models—for the colonization of the Pacific by Austronesian-speaking peoples and finds that the topology of the language tree was highly compatible with the express-train model.
The origin and diversification of language
Morris Swadesh, one of this century's foremost scientific investigators of language, dedicated much of his life to the study of the origin and evolution of language. This volume, left nearly
Language in the Americas
This book is concerned primarily with the evidence for the validity of a genetic unit, Amerind, embracing the vast majority of New World languages. The only languages excluded are those belonging to
Problematic use of Greenberg's linguistic classification of the Americas in studies of Native American genetic variation.
Evidence is presented that comparisons of genetic and linguistic variation in the Americas are problematic when they are based on Greenberg’s (1987) classification of Native American languages, for these very reasons.
The East Papuan Languages: A Preliminary Typological Appraisal
This paper examines the Papuan languages of Island Melanesia, with a view to considering their typological similarities and differences. The East Papuan languages are thought to be the descendants of
Finding Families: Quantitative Methods in Language Classification
Over the past two decades, many of the major controversies in historical linguistics have centred on language classification. Some of these controversies have been concentrated within linguistics, as
Spread of cattle led to the loss of matrilineal descent in Africa: a coevolutionary analysis
  • C. Holden, R. Mace
  • Sociology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 2003
The results support the hypothesis that acquiring cattle led formerly matrilineal Bantu–speaking cultures to change to patrillineal or mixed descent, and outline the daughter–biased parental investment hypothesis for matriliny, supported by data on sex, wealth and reproductive success from two African societies.
The history and geography of human genes
  • R. Cann
  • Biology
    The Journal of Asian Studies
  • 1995
The author examines the history of human evolution in Africa, Europe, and Asia through the lens of genetic, archaeological, and linguistic information.