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Project Members

  • Søren Wichmann
  • Cecil H. Brown (Northern Illinois University)
  • Eric W. Holman (University of California, Los Angeles) 
  • André Müller (University of Leipzig)
  • Taraka Rama (University of Gothenburg)

Computational and quantitative methods in historical linguistics

Figure: A succesful simulation of the distribution of speaker populations (filled circles) compared with the empirical distribution (open circles) and a simulation with different parameter settings (line)

In applying computational and statistical methods to large lexical and typological dataset and supplementing empirical data with computer simulations, we tried to address questions such as: How fast do different elements of language change? How can we classify all of the world's languages consistently? How did the present distribution of languages come about?

The Automated Similarity Judgment Program was a large part of this endeavour.


Brown, Cecil H., Eric W. Holman, and Søren Wichmann. In press (2013). Sound correspondences in the world’s languages. Language 89.1.

Wichmann, Søren and Eric W. Holman. In press. Languages with longer words have more lexical change. (For the proceedings of the Workshop on Comparing Approaches to Measuring Linguistic Differences, Gothenburg, Oct. 24-25, 2011). 

Wichmann, Søren and Matthias Urban. 2012. Toward an automated classification of Englishes. In: Terttu Nevalainen and Elizabeth Closs Traugott (eds). The Oxford Handbook of the History of English, 676-686. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. 

Holman, Eric W., Cecil H. Brown, Søren Wichmann, André Müller, Viveka Velupillai, Harald Hammarström, Sebastian Sauppe, Hagen Jung, Dik Bakker, Pamela Brown, Oleg Belyaev, Matthias Urban, Robert Mailhammer, Johann-Mattis List, and Dmitry Egorov. 2011. Automated dating of the world’s language families based on lexical similarity. Current Anthropology 52.6: 841-875. 

Wichmann, Søren, Eric W. Holman, Taraka Rama, and Robert S. Walker. 2011. Correlates of reticulation in linguistic phylogenies. Language Dynamics and Change 1: 205-240. 

Wichmann, Søren, Taraka Rama, and Eric W. Holman. 2011. Phonological diversity, word length, and population sizes across languages: The ASJP evidence. Linguistic Typology 15: 177-197. 

Wichmann, Søren and Anthony P. Grant (eds.). 2010. Special Issue: Quantitative Approaches to Linguistic Diversity: Commemorating the Centenary of the Birth of Morris Swadesh. Diachronica 27.2. 

Wichmann, Søren, André Müller, and Viveka Velupillai. 2010. Homelands of the world’s language families: A quantitative approach. Diachronica 27.2: 247-276. 

Wichmann, Søren, Eric W. Holman, Dik Bakker, and Cecil H. Brown. 2010. Evaluating linguistic distance measures. Physica A. 389: 3632-3639 (doi:10.1016/j.physa.2010.05.011). 

Wichmann, Søren and Holman, Eric W. 2009. Population size and rates of language change. Human Biology 81: 259-274. 

Wichmann, Søren. 2008. The emerging field of language dynamics. Language and Linguistics Compass 2.3: 442-455. 

Murilo Castro de Oliveira, Paulo, Dietrich Stauffer, Søren Wichmann, and Suzana Moss de Oliveira. 2008. A computer simulation of language families. Journal of Linguistics 44: 659-675. 

Holman, Eric W., Søren Wichmann, Cecil H. Brown, Viveka Velupillai, André Müller, and Dik Bakker. 2008. Explorations in automated language classification. Folia Linguistica 42.2: 331-354. 

Brown, Cecil H., Eric W. Holman, Søren Wichmann, and Viveka Velupillai. 2008. Automated classification of the world's languages: A description of the method and preliminary results. STUF – Language Typology and Universals  61.4: 285-308. 

Schulze, Christian, Dietrich Stauffer, and Søren Wichmann. 2008. Birth, survival and death of languages by Monte Carlo simulation. Communications in Computational Physics 3.2: 271-294. 

Wichmann, Søren, Dietrich Stauffer, Christian Schulze, and Eric W. Holman. 2008. Do language change rates depend on population size? Advances in Complex Systems 11.3: 357-369. 

Wichmann, Søren and Arpiar Saunders. 2007. How to use typological databases in historical linguistic research. Diachronica 24.2: 373-404. 

Holman, Eric W., Christian Schulze, Dietrich Stauffer, and Søren Wichmann. 2007. On the relation between structural diversity and geographical distance among languages: observations and computer simulations. Linguistic Typology 11.2: 395-423. 

Wichmann, Søren, Dietrich Stauffer, F. Welington S. Lima, and Christian Schulze. 2007. Modelling linguistic taxonomic dynamics. Transactions of the Philological Society 105.2: 126-147.

Stauffer, Dietrich, Christian Schulze, F.W.S. Lima, Søren Wichmann, and Sorin Solomon. 2006. Non-equilibrium and irreversible simulation of competition among languages. Physica A 371.2: 719-724. 

Wichmann, Søren. 2005. On the power-law distribution of language family sizes. Journal of Linguistics 41: 117-131.