About the Article
The article “Support for linguistic macrofamilies from weighted sequence alignment” reports findings regarding the automatic classification of Eurasian languages using techniques from computational biology (such as sequence alignment, phylogenetic inference, and bootstrapping). Main results are that there is solid support for the hypothetical linguistic macrofamilies Eurasiatic and Austro-Tai. Unlike comparable previous work, these findings do not depend on manual assessments of etymological facts. This study contributes to ongoing efforts to push the limits of linguistic reconstruction further back in time, and thus to open a window into the pre-Neolithic human past. The methodological approach pursued here can be seen as a statistically informed and automatized version of Joseph Greenberg’s mass lexical comparison, which yielded intriguing results regarding deep genetic relations between languages but has remained controversial among experts.
Read the full article (pnas.org; open access)
About Gerhard Jäger
Gerhard Jäger is Professor of Linguistics at Tuebingen University and is currently at NIAS as a member of the theme group on phylogenetic algorithms for linguistics.