Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Founded by Fishman, Joshua A.

Ed. by Duchêne, Alexandre / Coulmas, Florian

CiteScore 2016: 0.53

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.505
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.716

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 2013, Issue 221


On the disintegration of (proto-)languages

Paulo Murilo Castro de Oliveira / Adriano O. Sousa
  • Departamento de Física Teórica e Experimental, Universidade Federal de Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Søren Wichmann
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany & Leiden University, The Netherlands
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2013-05-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2013-0021


Do languages split into dialects and subsequently into new languages at regular rates? Does such a regular splitting rate also apply to speech communities ancestral to the world's current language families? Do linguistic phylogenies exhibit intermediate levels (“genera”) which are somehow objectively identifiable? These questions are rarely raised, much less answered. In this article we present a simple method that provides insights into all the questions, drawing upon data from a world-wide sample of languages. It will be shown that splitting rates are approximately regular even if the languages studied are proto-languages spoken at very different points in prehistory and different places in the world. Ancestors of the world's linguistic families tend to have similar life-times. An intermediate transitional level corresponding to the point where genera appear can be objectively inferred from differences among descendant languages even without previously having established the structure of the phylogenetic tree.

Keywords: phylogenetics; proto-languages; lexicostatistics; language classification

About the article

Published Online: 2013-05-16

Published in Print: 2013-05-22

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Volume 2013, Issue 221, Pages 11–19, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2013-0021.

Export Citation

©[2013] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in