Evolution and Language: Phylogenetic Analyses
Language phylogenies are a potentially powerful way to answer questions about how languages and cultures evolve. Recently phylogenetic methods have been applied to answer a range of questions about the evolution of human languages and cultures. This chapter reviews the historical background of these approaches and provides a detailed methodological overview. Three different applications of phylogenetic methods are discussed: how language phylogenies can be used to test population dispersal hypotheses, to investigate processes in language evolution, and to infer patterns in cultural evolution. The chapter closes with a brief discussion of some controversies over the use of these methods before discussing some future prospects.