New Publication

Detecting contact in language trees: a Bayesian phylogenetic model with horizontal transfer

Detecting contact in language trees
Want to find hidden contact in language history? A new paper by @NicoNeureiter et al. presents contacTrees, a phylogenetic model with horizontal transfer. 

Detecting contact in language trees: a Bayesian phylogenetic model with horizontal transfer

Nico Neureiter, Peter Ranacher, Nour Efrat-Kowalsky, Gereon A. Kaiping, Robert Weibel, Paul Widmer & Remco R. Bouckaert

Phylogenetic trees show how related languages have diversified over time. They have been used to estimate the age of the Indo-European language family or to study the spread of the Bantu languages across Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the statistical methods for inferring phylogenetic trees from linguistic data ignore a central aspect of language evolution – language contact. This study presents contacTrees, a new model of phylogenetic trees with language contact. It infers a phylogenetic tree with contact events, where one language can borrow words from another one. A simulation and a case study show that the model detects known contact events and loanwords – a promising result for anyone who wants to find unknown contact in language history.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-022-01211-7