Dr. Simon J. Greenhill
Languages and genes tell stories about the past but statistical analysis reveals that these are not always the same.
Bayesian phylogenetic methods provide a set of tools to efficiently evaluate large linguistic datasets by reconstructing phylogenies—family trees—that represent the history of language families. These methods provide a powerful way to test hypotheses about prehistory, regarding the subgrouping, ori- gins, expansion, and timing of the languages and their speakers. Through phylogenetics, we gain …
Haynie H, Kavanagh PH, Jordan FM, Ember CR, Gray RD, Greenhill SJ, Kirby KR, Kushnick G, Low BS, Tuff T, Vilela B, Botero C, & Gavin MC. 2021. Pathways to social inequality. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 3, E35.
Abstract PDF 10.1017/ehs.2021.32
Social inequality is ubiquitous in contemporary human societies, and has deleterious social and ecological impacts. However, the factors that shape the emergence and maintenance of inequality remain widely debated. Here we conduct a global analysis of pathways to inequality by comparing 408 non-industrial societies in the anthropological record (described largely between 1860 and 1960) that vary …
Passmore S, Barth W, Quinn K, Greenhill SJ, Evans N, & Jordan FM. 2021. Kin Against Kin: Internal Co-selection and the Coherence of Kinship Typologies. Biological Theory.
Abstract PDF 10.1007/s13752-021-00379-6
Across the world people in different societies structure their family relationships in many different ways. These relationships become encoded in their languages as kinship terminology, a word set that maps variably onto a vast genealogical grid of kinship categories, each of which could in principle vary independently. But the observed diversity of kinship terminology is considerably smaller than …
Baird L, Evans N, & Greenhill SJ. 2021. Blowing in the wind: Using 'North Wind and the Sun' texts to sample phoneme inventories. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 1-42.
Abstract PDF 10.1017/S002510032000033X
Language documentation faces a persistent and pervasive problem: How much material is enough to represent a language fully? How much text would we need to sample the full phoneme inventory of a language? In the phonetic/phonemic domain, what proportion of the phoneme inventory can we expect to sample in a text of a given length? Answering these questions in a quantifiable way is tricky, but asking …
Glottobank is an international research consortium established to document and understand the world’s linguistic diversity. We have established five global databases documenting variation in language structure (Grambank), lexicon (Lexibank), paradigm systems (Parabank), numerals (Numeralbank), and phonetic changes (Phonobank).
From the foods we eat, to who we can marry, to the types of games we teach our children, the diversity of cultural practices in the world is astounding. Yet, our ability to visualize and understand this diversity is often limited by the ways it traditionally has been documented and shared: on a culture-by-culture basis, in locally-told stories or difficult-to-access books and articles. D-PLACE represents an attempt to bring together this dispersed corpus of information.
TransNewGuinea.org is a database of the Trans-New Guinea language family and friends. The Trans-New Guinea language family currently occupies most of the interior of New Guinea. This family is possibly the third largest in the world with 400 languages and is tentatively thought to have originated with root-crop agriculture around 10,000 years ago. However, vanishingly little is known about this family’s history.
The Polynesian Lexicon Project Online is a large-scale comparative dictionary of Polynesian languages.
The Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database is the world’s largest cross-linguistic database of the Pacific. It contains ~300,000 lexical items from ~1,600 languages spoken throughout the Pacific region.