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Workshop on non-cladistic approaches to language genealogy, Naples, 31 July 2015


Date: 31 July 2015

In 2015, CoEDL affiliate Siva Kalyan is co-organising (with Alex François) a workshop on non-cladistic approaches to language genealogy. The worskhop will take place on the last day of the International Conference on Historical Linguistics in Naples (27-31 July 2015).

Ever since it was popularised by August Schleicher (1853, 1873), the family-tree model has been the dominant paradigm for representing the historical relations among the languages in a family.

The tree model is not without its strengths. Not only does it represent patterns of relatedness among languages, but it also commits itself to reconstructing the sequence of historical and social events that gave rise to these patterns. Further, the formal simplicity of cladistic representations makes it possible to apply powerful computational techniques from biology, which have become increasingly popular in recent years (Ringe et al. 2002, Gray et al. 2010, among many others).

However, the advantages of the tree model come at the cost of making a very restrictive assumption: namely, that language families evolve primarily by splitting, with subsequent loss of contact. Put another way, the tree model assumes that once two speech varieties have started to diverge, it is no longer possible for innovations to diffuse from one to the other. This assumption excludes the possibility of overlapping subgroups.

Non-cladistic approaches to language genealogy are still in their infancy; we hope that this workshop serves to spur further research into this hitherto-neglected, but fundamentally important area.

For more information including details on how to apply visit the webpage of the 22nd International Conference on Historical Linguistics.

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