Language evolution and human history: What a difference a date makes

Russell Gray, Quentin D. Atkinson, Simon Greenhill

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Historical inference is at its most powerful when independent lines of evidence can be integrated into a coherent account. Dating linguistic and cultural lineages can potentially play a vital role in the integration of evidence from linguistics, anthropology, archaeology and genetics. Unfortunately, although the comparative method in historical linguistics can provide a relative chronology, it cannot provide absolute date estimates and an alternative approach, called glottochronology, is fundamentally flawed. In this paperwe outline howcomputational phylogeneticmethods can reliably estimate language divergence dates and thus help resolve long-standing debates about human prehistory ranging from the origin of the Indo-European language family to the peopling of the Pacific.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1090-1100
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B
    Issue number1567
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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