New Paper Accepted

Last week, we heard that a new study on the trimming of phonetic alignments to improve the inference of sound correspondence patterns was accepted to appear as part of the SIGTYP workshop organized as part of the EACL (work by Frederic Blum and myself). The preprint of this study is now also available on on arXiv.

Sound correspondence patterns form the basis of cognate detection and phonological reconstruction in historical language comparison. Methods for the automatic inference of correspondence patterns from phonetically aligned cognate sets have been proposed, but their application to multilingual wordlists requires extremely well annotated datasets. Since annotation is tedious and time consuming, it would be desirable to find ways to improve aligned cognate data automatically. Taking inspiration from trimming techniques in evolutionary biology, which improve alignments by excluding problematic sites, we propose a workflow that trims phonetic alignments in comparative linguistics prior to the inference of correspondence patterns. Testing these techniques on a large standardized collection of ten datasets with expert annotations from different language families, we find that the best trimming technique substantially improves the overall consistency of the alignments. The results show a clear increase in the proportion of frequent correspondence patterns and words exhibiting regular cognate relations.