Language Classification By Numbers

Paperback | November 24, 2005

byApril McMahon, Robert Mcmahon

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This book considers how languages have traditionally been divided into families, and asks how they should classified in the future. It describes and applies computer programs from biology and evolutionary genetics to data about languages and shows how the power of the computer can be harnessedto throw light on long-standing problems in historical linguistics. It tests current theories and hypotheses, shows how new ideas can be formulated, and offers a series of demonstrations that the new techniques applied to old data can produce convincing results that are sometimes startlingly at oddswith accepted wisdom. April and Robert McMahon combine the expertise and perspectives of an historical linguist and a geneticist. They analyse the links between linguistic and population genetics, and consider how far language can be used to discover and understand the histories and interrelationsof human populations. They explore the origins and formation of the Indo-European languages and examine less well studied languages in South America. Their book will be of great practical importance to students and researchers in historical and comparative linguistics and will interest all thoseconcerned with the classification and diffusion of languages in fields such as archaeology, genetics, and anthropology. Its approachable style will appeal to general readers seeking to know more about the relationship between linguistic and human history.

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This book considers how languages have traditionally been divided into families, and asks how they should classified in the future. It describes and applies computer programs from biology and evolutionary genetics to data about languages and shows how the power of the computer can be harnessedto throw light on long-standing problems in...

April McMahon is Forbes Professor of English Language at the University of Edinburgh, and has previously worked at the Universities of Sheffield and Cambridge. Her main research interests are language change, language classification, phonological theory, and variation in English and Scots. She has published a number of books on these ...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 9.69 × 6.73 × 0.68 inPublished:November 24, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199279020

ISBN - 13:9780199279029

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Table of Contents

1. How do Linguists Classify Languages?2. Lexicostatistics3. Tree-Based Quantitative Approaches - Computational Cladistics4. Tree-Based Quantitative Approaches: Sublists5. Correlations Between Genetic and Linguistic Data6. Climbing Down from the Trees: Network Models7. Dating8. Quantitative Methods Beyond the Lexicon