Comparative Reconstruction Probabilistically

...a stronger affinity than could possibly have been produced by accident

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Andrei Munteanu

email: andrei.munteanu at mail.utoronto.ca

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Abstract Representation of P(D|S)

Abstract

While the comparative method is the uncontroversial gold standard for establishing genetic relationships between languages, there exists no quantitative measure of its applications. Nevertheless, uncertainty about reconstructions of greater time-depth is commonplace. In my dissertation, I introduce a quantitative evaluation metric for comparative reconstructions. The primary goal of the project is to develop a platform for objective and accessible debate surrounding spurious reconstructions. In addition, I employ the quantiative metric in a simulated annealing algorithm which finds reconstructions automatically. Finally, the quantitative metric facilitates abstract reasoning about the comparative method itself. For example, it can be shown that languages with longer words, richer phoneme inventories, or looser phonotactics require less evidence to establish a genetic relationship, or that semantic change does comparatively little to obscure a genetic relationship between languages.

References

  • Munteanu, Andrei (2022). Comparative Reconstruction Probabilistically: The Role of Semantic Change. Presentation at the 42nd Annual TABU Linguistics Conference, June 8th, 2022, University of Groningen, Netherlands.
  • Munteanu, Andrei (2021). Comparative Reconstruction Probabilistically: The Role of Inventory and Phonotactics. Poster presentation at the Annual Meeting on Phonology, October 1st, 2021, University of Toronto, Canada.
  • Munteanu, Andrei (2021). A Union of Quantitative and Traditional Approaches in HIstorical Linguistics. Poster presentation at 28th Manchester Phonology Meeting, May 26th, 2021, University of Manchester and University of Edinburgh, UK.

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