Phylogenetic methods have revolutionised evolutionary biology and have recently been applied to studies of linguistic and cultural evolution. However, the basic comparative data on the languages of the world required for these analyses is often widely dispersed in hard to obtain sources. Here we outline how our Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database (ABVD) helps remedy this situation by collating wordlists from over 500 languages into one web-accessible database. We describe the technology underlying the ABVD and discuss the benefits that an evolutionary bioinformatic approach can provide. These include facilitating computational comparative linguistic research, answering questions about human prehistory, enabling syntheses with genetic data, and safe-guarding fragile linguistic information.

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