Comparative Reconstruction Probabilistically

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

A snazzy picture of me

Andrei Munteanu

email: andrei.munteanu2 at

office (Winter2023): 1085 Dr. Penfield, #322



fancy chart

Abstract Representation of P(D|S)


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.


  • Munteanu, Andrei (2024). Probabilistic Evaluation of Comparative Reconstruction [doctoral dissertation]. University of Toronto.
  • Munteanu, Andrei (2023). Automating comparative reconstructions: Case study in Austronesian and Ongan. International Conference on Historical Linguistics, September 5th, 2023, University of Heidelberg, Germany.
  • Munteanu, Andrei (2022). Comparative reconstruction probabilistically: The role of semantic change. 42nd Annual TABU Linguistics Conference, June 8th, 2022, University of Groningen, Netherlands.
  • Munteanu, Andrei (2021). Comparative reconstruction probabilistically: The role of inventory and phonotactics. Annual Meeting on Phonology, October 1st, 2021, University of Toronto, Canada.
  • Munteanu, Andrei (2021). A Union of quantitative and traditional approaches in historical linguistics. 28th Manchester Phonology Meeting, May 26th, 2021, University of Manchester and University of Edinburgh, UK.