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Structural phylogenetics and the reconstruction of ancient language history.
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Structural phylogenetics and the reconstruction of ancient language history.

Author: M Dunn Affiliation: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Post Office Box 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, Netherlands. michael.dunn@mpi.nl; A Terrill; G Reesink; RA Foley; SC Levinson
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication:Science (New York, N.Y.) 2005 Sep 23; 309(5743): 2072-5
Database:From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Other Databases: ArticleFirstBritish Library Serials
Summary:
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  Read more...
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Document Type: Article
All Authors / Contributors: M Dunn Affiliation: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Post Office Box 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, Netherlands. michael.dunn@mpi.nl; A Terrill; G Reesink; RA Foley; SC Levinson
ISSN:0036-8075
Language Note: English
Unique Identifier: 111923848
Awards:

Abstract:

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 families of Oceanic Austronesian languages, then applied to the Papuan languages of Island Melanesia, a group of hitherto unrelatable isolates. Papuan languages show an archipelago-based phylogenetic signal that is consistent with the current geographical distribution of languages. The most plausible hypothesis to explain this result is the divergence of the Papuan languages from a common ancestral stock, as part of late Pleistocene dispersals.

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