New Papers

Two new papers have now been officially published as part of the SIGTYP workshop in Malta.

First, there is a paper by Jessica Nieder and myself, discussing mutual intelligibility and proposing a way to model it computationally (URL https://aclanthology.org/2024.sigtyp-1.4/).

Closely related languages show linguistic similarities that allow speakers of one language to understand speakers of another language without having actively learned it. Mutual intelligibility varies in degree and is typically tested in psycholinguistic experiments. To study mutual intelligibility computationally, we propose a computer-assisted method using the Linear Discriminative Learner, a computational model developed to approximate the cognitive processes by which humans learn languages, which we expand with multilingual semantic vectors and multilingual sound classes. We test the model on cognate data from German, Dutch, and English, three closely related Germanic languages. We find that our model’s comprehension accuracy depends on 1) the automatic trimming of inflections and 2) the language pair for which comprehension is tested. Our multilingual modelling approach does not only offer new methodological findings for automatic testing of mutual intelligibility across languages but also extends the use of Linear Discriminative Learning to multilingual settings.

Then there is a paper by Luise Häuser, Gerhard Jäger, Taraka Rama, myself, and Alexandros Stamatakis, discussing the usefulness of phylogenetic reconstruction with sound correspondences (URL: https://aclanthology.org/2024.sigtyp-1.11/).

In traditional studies on language evolution, scholars often emphasize the importance of sound laws and sound correspondences for phylogenetic inference of language family trees. However, to date, computational approaches have typically not taken this potential into account. Most computational studies still rely on lexical cognates as major data source for phylogenetic reconstruction in linguistics, although there do exist a few studies in which authors praise the benefits of comparing words at the level of sound sequences. Building on (a) ten diverse datasets from different language families, and (b) state-of-the-art methods for automated cognate and sound correspondence detection, we test, for the first time, the performance of sound-based versus cognate-based approaches to phylogenetic reconstruction. Our results show that phylogenies reconstructed from lexical cognates are topologically closer, by approximately one third with respect to the generalized quartet distance on average, to the gold standard phylogenies than phylogenies reconstructed from sound correspondences.