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Evolutionary dynamics of language systems
Australian Natl Univ, ARC Ctr Excellence Dynam Language, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.;Max Planck Inst Sci Human Hist, Dept Linguist & Cultural Evolut, D-07745 Jena, Germany..
Univ Oxford, Dept Stat, Oxford OX1 3LB, England..
Australian Natl Univ, Res Sch Biol, Div Ecol Evolut & Genet, Macroevolut & Macroecol, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia..
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Linguistics and Philology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5349-5252
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2017 (English)In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, ISSN 0027-8424, E-ISSN 1091-6490, Vol. 114, no 42, p. E8822-E8829Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Understanding how and why language subsystems differ in their evolutionary dynamics is a fundamental question for historical and comparative linguistics. One key dynamic is the rate of language change. While it is commonly thought that the rapid rate of change hampers the reconstruction of deep language relationships beyond 6,000-10,000 y, there are suggestions that grammatical structures might retainmore signal over time than other subsystems, such as basic vocabulary. In this study, we use a Dirichlet process mixture model to infer the rates of change in lexical and grammatical data from 81 Austronesian languages. We show that, on average, most grammatical features actually change faster than items of basic vocabulary. The grammatical data show less schismogenesis, higher rates of homoplasy, and more bursts of contact-induced change than the basic vocabulary data. However, there is a core of grammatical and lexical features that are highly stable. These findings suggest that different subsystems of language have differing dynamics and that careful, nuanced models of language change will be needed to extract deeper signal from the noise of parallel evolution, areal readaptation, and contact.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
NATL ACAD SCIENCES , 2017. Vol. 114, no 42, p. E8822-E8829
Keywords [en]
language evolution, language dynamics, language phylogenies, typology, linguistics
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-340125DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1700388114ISI: 000413237900008PubMedID: 29073028OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-340125DiVA, id: diva2:1179260
Available from: 2018-01-31 Created: 2018-01-31 Last updated: 2018-01-31Bibliographically approved

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