Dr. Simon J. Greenhill
Anderson C, Tresoldi T, Greenhill SJ, Forkel R, Gray RD & List JML. 2023. Variation in phoneme inventories: quantifying the problem and improving comparability. Journal of Language Evolution, 11, lzad011.
For over a century, the phoneme has played a central role in linguistic research. In recent years, collections of phoneme inventories, originally designed for cross-linguistic purposes, have increasingly been used in comparative studies involving neighbouring disciplines. Despite the extended application of this type of data, there has been no research into its comparability or tests of its reliability. In this study, we carry out a systematic comparison of nine popular phoneme inventory collections. We render them comparable by linking them to standardised formats for the handling of …Abstract PDF 10.1093/jole/lzad011
Shcherbakova O, Michaelis SM, Haynie HJ, Passmore S, Gast V, Gray RD, Greenhill SJ, Blasi DE, & Skirgård H. 2023. Societies of strangers do not speak grammatically simpler languages. Science Advances, 9 (33), eadf7704.
Many recent proposals claim that languages adapt to their environments. The linguistic niche hypothesis claims that languages with numerous native speakers and substantial proportions of nonnative speakers (societies of strangers) tend to lose grammatical distinctions. In contrast, languages in small, isolated communities should maintain or expand their grammatical markers. Here, we test these claims using a global dataset of grammatical structures, Grambank. We model the impact of the number of native speakers, the proportion of nonnative speakers, the number of linguistic neighbors, and the …Abstract PDF 10.1126/sciadv.adf7704
As the world changes, humans encounter new things that need to be described using a finite set of words. A common strategy for labeling these novelties is to reuse existing words—i.e., word meaning extension. For example, “mouse” can refer to a computer control device. Children also creatively overextend word meanings as they learn their languages. The need to name novelties has been present during the evolution of language, often resulting in the use of one word to express two different meanings. For example, Russian labels (colexifies) both “tree” and “wood” with “derevo” (1); this is a …Abstract 10.1126/science.adj2154
Almost half the world’s population speaks a language of the Indo-European language family. It remains unclear, however, where this family’s common ancestral language (Proto-Indo-European) was initially spoken and when and why it spread through Eurasia. The “Steppe” hypothesis posits an expansion out of the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, no earlier than 6500 years before present (yr B.P.), and mostly with horse-based pastoralism from ~5000 yr B.P. An alternative “Anatolian” or “farming” hypothesis posits that Indo-European dispersed with agriculture out of parts of the Fertile Crescent, beginning as …Abstract PDF 10.1126/science.abg0818 Overview