Computational Historical Linguistics

Gerhard Jäger

  • Area: LoCo
  • Level: A
  • Week: 1
  • Time: 09:00 – 10:30
  • Room: D1.02


Language change shares several features with biological evolution: languages and biological traits
are realized in populations; they are transmitted between generations; population splits lead to diversification. The history of this diversification is studied by systematic comparison of extant
(plus historical/fossilized) traits. Within the past three decades, comparative biology has turned mathematical and computational; there is a plethora of models and algorithms to infer phylogenetic information from comparative data. Those range from clustering methods to sophisticated Bayesian models. Recent applications thereof to historical linguistics have garnered remarkable but also controversial results. Computational/phylogenetic historical linguistics faces several challenges, such as the sparseness of comparative data. Also, replication of linguistic knowledge is arguably less understood than its biological counterpart. The course offers a recapitulation of the comparative method in historical linguistics, a primer on phylogenetic inference, plus an overview over the state of the art in computational and phylogenetic historical linguistics.


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Additional Reading