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mar. 02/02/2016 Atelier HELAN2. Mattis List Modeling Language Change for the Purpose of Phylogenetic Reconstruction
ISH, Andre Frossard

The use of computational methods for the purpose of phylogenetic reconstruction in historical linguistics is steadily increasing. The majority of the computational methods was originally designed for the use in evolutionary biology. While methodological transfer in interdisciplinary research is definitely desirable and may turn out to be very fruitful, it is important to make sure that the transferred methods are adequate to address new problems in a new domain of research. By comparing basic evolutionary processes in biology and linguistics, I will show that many analogies between biology and linguistics which have been proposed in the past are in fact problematic. As a result, the use of certain biological methods in the field of linguistics should be re-evaluated. On the other hand, not all fruitful analogies between biology and linguistics have been explored so far. A more thorough investigation of evolutionary processes in both domains could help us to develop new computational approaches and view common problems in historical linguistics from a fresh perspective. In the talk, I will review proposed similarities between evolutionary processes in the two disciplines, point to interesting similarities which have so far been ignored, and discuss the methodological implications of problematic and fruitful analogies.


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