Is it possible to verify the genetic taxa of world languages by typological methods?

Siva Kalyan sivakalyan.princeton at GMAIL.COM
Sun Dec 20 18:14:03 UTC 2009

Perhaps also relevant is the recent work by Dunn et al.:

Dunn, M, S C Levinson, E Lindström, G Reesink, and A Terrill, "Structural
Phylogeny in Historical Linguistics: Methodological Explorations Applied in
Island Melanesia." Language 84, no. 4 (2008): 710-759.

This would give a quantitative answer. Again, the answer seems to be yes.


2009/12/20 Søren Wichmann <wichmann at>

> This paper gives a qualitative answer
> Polyakov, Vladimir N., Valery D. Solovyev, Søren Wichmann, and Oleg
> Belyaev. 2009. Using WALS and Jazyki Mira. Linguistic Typology 13: 135-165.
> There is a prepublication version here:
> The short answer is: yes, languages can be genealogically classified by
> means of typological data, but it takes a lot of such data to get an
> accurate classification.
> Søren.
> Yuri Tambovtsev wrote:
>> Dear colleagues in the field of typology, I wonder if it is possible to
>> verify the genetic taxa of world languages by typological methods? For
>> instance, let us take Finno-Ugric language family and analyse it with the
>> help of the total of the distances between its members and then compare this
>> total to the total distance between the Turkic language family. If
>> Finno-Ugric distance total is greater then that of the Turkic one, it means
>> that Finno-Ugric languages are less similar to each other than the Turkic
>> languages. We took nine phonetic features and found out that Turkic language
>> family has a smaller distance total. Thus, we can say that it is more
>> compact on the phonetic level. It means that Turkic languages are more
>> similar phonetically. So, we can say that the genetic taxon of the Turkic
>> languages has been verified by the typological methods. What do you think
>> about that? Looking forward to hearing from you to yutamb at<mailto:
>> yutamb at>  Yours sincerely Yuri Tambovtsev
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