March 16, 2004

Trees of life and language

If you've seen this 3/16/2004 NYT story by Nicholas Wade, "A Biological Dig for the Roots of Language", which is based on the 11/27/2003 Gray and Atkinson article in Nature, "Language Tree Divergence Times Support the Anatolian Theory of Indo-European Origin", you might want to look back at this review by Bill Poser, with follow-ups here, here and here.

If you have a Nature subscription (and most university libraries will offer access to students, faculty and staff through their web site), you can read David Searl's excellent background article from the 11/27 issue here, and the original Gray and Atkinson article here.

Here is a discussion of a much less serious effort to apply computational methods to reconstruct linguistic phylogeny, in an earlier 2003 PNAS paper by Forster and Toth, 'Toward a phylogenetic chronology of ancient Gaulish, Celtic, and Indo-European.'

Posted by Mark Liberman at March 16, 2004 12:50 PM