Computational Phylogenetics and language (Pre)history Workshop: Achievements, Challenges and Prospects
23 - 25 May 2023
Student Cultural Center Xenia, Rethymnon, Crete, Greece
This workshop aims to promote a broad exchange of views, methodological tools and recent findings in computational phylogenetics as applied to historical linguistics, by bringing together experts from different schools of thought and from as many of the interacting (sub-)disciplines as possible. The research conducted over the past two decades has uncovered a significant number of ways in which importing methods from evolutionary biology and bioinformatics can be fruitful in exploring language (pre)history but has also left us with many open questions. The workshop aims to address in an informal setting the types of data that are most suitable for the reconstruction of genealogical relationships, e.g. cognates vs. morphosyntactic data, the issue of delineating the conservative and/or informative parts of each dataset, and the question of whether sets of characters that have proved themselves useful for certain language samples and time depths can easily carry over to the study of others. A related issue concerns the choice between theory-neutral characters, mainly drawn from the typological literature and the vast databases that have resulted from such research, and theory-driven characters, based on observations and conclusions in the formal comparative literature. Other core themes include methodological issues, the ways computational tools need to be adjusted to language data, and how to capture or control for horizontal transmission. The workshop will highlight the findings of computational and quantitative historical linguistics and compare them to the results of more traditional, qualitative approaches to language history. Finally, the challenges and prospects of an interdisciplinary approach to these problems will be addressed.