ALT 2017 will feature teach-ins on particular language groups from our region on Monday, December 11, 2017. We will also offer a teach-in on quantitative methodologies on Sunday, December 10. Please find descriptions of the workshops below.

Registrations for teach-ins (and the conference proper) will open in late February 2017. Registration will then be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Teach-ins are covered through the normal conference registration fees, but we will be asking those who register to contribute to catering costs.


December 10, 2017

A crash course on quantitative methods in linguistic typology

D. E. Blasi 1,2 & B. Bickel 1

1: Department of Comparative Linguistics, University of Zürich, Switzerland
2: Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, MPI for the Science of Human History, Germany

Please note that course is full


The goal of the course is to introduce the fundamental ideas of quantitative thinking for the study of linguistic typology, including both classic concepts of statistical inference and more recent developments from mathematical biology and data science. At the end of the course, participants should have an idea of what methods are available for which problem and where they can learn how to apply and use them in practice.

Structure of the course

Morning course (D. E. Blasi)

  • A bit of history and background: statistics, machine learning and data science
  • Frequentist and Bayesian statistics
  • The regression/classification problem
  • Cluster analysis
  • Model evaluation and comparison
  • Knowledge discovery
  • Correlation and causation

Afternoon course (B. Bickel)

  • The two fundamental problems in statistical inference in typology: Galton’s problem and the range of possible histories
  • Genealogical and areal dependencies between languages
  • Estimates of change and co-evolution
  • Stochastic character mapping and ancestral states
  • Testing evolutionary biases: neutral and non-neutral change
  •  Estimating evolutionary biases in unresolved and unknown phylogenies

December 11, 2017

Australian Languages

Rachel Nordlinger & John Mansfield

University of Melbourne

In this course we present some of the key typological features of Australian languages, with a particular focus on Murrinhpatha (from the Daly River region). Topics covered include: phonetics and phonology,  noun phrases and nominal classification, complex predicates, argument structure and valency changing, and inflectional categories (pronominal categories, gender and number, tense and aspect).  Each topic will be first presented from a broader Australian perspective, and then discussed for Murrinhpatha, one of Australia’s most complex and interesting languages.  


Austronesian Lanugages

Dineke Schokkin, Mark Donohue et al.

Australian National University

Austronesian is the world's largest language family in terms of geographical spread, spanning more than half the globe: from Madagascar to Easter Island, and from Taiwan to New Zealand. This vast and diverse language family is also one of the best documented. It includes both major world languages with millions of speakers, like Indonesian and Tagalog, and tiny Oceanic languages spoken on a remote island with only a couple of hundred speakers.

During the teach-in, participants will get a taste of some of the key features of the Austronesian family. Tentative topics include phonology and aspects of morphosyntax that make Austronesian stand out among the world's languages, such as number systems and possessive constructions. In the last session, participants will get their hands dirty uncovering structural characteristics of an Austronesian language from primary data.

Papuan Languages

Don Daniels & Nicholas Evans

Australian National University

This course will introduce participants to the Papuan languages of New Guinea and its surrounding islands. Topics will include the typological diversity of Papuan languages, common Papuan grammatical features (such as clause chaining and switch reference), in-depth introductions to a few Papuan language areas, and historical linguistics and the prehistory of Papuan languages.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University

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