Showing posts from July, 2016

A Global Tree of Languages

I was a reviewer for the Evolution of Language (Evolang) conference for the first time this year, a tedious-sounding task that turned out to be hilarious.  The conference attracts some bizarre manuscripts on the origins of language, one particularly imaginative one I wanted to devote a blogpost to, but regretfully cannot because of reviewer confidentiality. Also in my inbox to review was the most exciting paper about language that I’d ever seen.  I recommended acceptance obviously, even though it was only tangentially related to the theme of the conference, and it was accepted as a poster and published in the conference proceedings (available here ).  The paper was by Gerhard Jäger and Søren Wichmann, about constructing a world family tree of languages using a database of basic vocabulary, the ASJP database .  Claims about how language families may be related are nothing new but are normally statistically uninformed (such as work by Merritt Ruhlen and Joseph Greenberg).  The amaz