Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 16, 2009

Explorations in automated language classification

  • Eric W. Holman , Søren Wichmann , Cecil H. Brown , Viveka Velupillai , André Müller and Dik Bakker
From the journal Folia Linguistica

An earlier paper, to which some authors of the present paper have contributed (Brown et al. 2008), describes a method for automating language classification based on the 100-item referent list of Swadesh (1955). Here we discuss a refinement of the method, involving calculation of relative stabilities of list items and reduction of the list to a shorter one by eliminating least stable items. The result is a 40-item referent list. The method for determining stabilities is explained, as well as a method for comparing the classificatory performance of different-sized reduced lists with that of the full 100-item list. A statistical investigation of the relationship of lexical similarity of languages to their geographical proximity is presented. Finally, we test the possibility that information involving typological features of languages can be combined with lexical data to enhance classificatory accuracy.

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, D–04103 Leipzig, Germany. e-mail:

Received: 2007-11-25
Accepted: 2008-02-26
Published Online: 2009-02-16
Published in Print: 2008-November

© Mouton de Gruyter – Societas Linguistica Europaea

Downloaded on 30.11.2023 from
Scroll to top button