CHIELD: the causal hypotheses in evolutionary linguistics database

Sean G Roberts, Anton Killin, Angarika Deb, Catherine Sheard, Simon Greenhill, Kaius Sinnemaki, Jose Segovia-Martin, Jonas Nolle, Aleksandrs Berdicevskis, Archie Humphreys-Balkwill, Hannah Little, Christopher Opie, Guillaume Jacques, Lindell Bromham, Stephen Mann, Hedvig Skirgård

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Language is one of the most complex of human traits. There are many hypotheses about how it originated, what factors shaped its diversity, and what ongoing processes drive how it changes. We present the Causal Hypotheses in Evolutionary Linguistics Database (CHIELD,, a tool for expressing, exploring, and evaluating hypotheses. It allows researchers to integrate multiple theories into a coherent narrative, helping to design future research. We present design goals, a formal specification, and an implementation for this database. Source code is freely available for other fields to take advantage of this tool. Some initial results are presented, including identifying conflicts in theories about gossip and ritual, comparing hypotheses relating population size and morphological complexity, and an author relation network.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)101-120
    JournalJournal of Language Evolution
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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