The evolution of language structure (Michael Dunn)
Linguistic systems are established through the action of historical processes. In this course I will discuss how to analyze linguistic relatedness and diversity using modern phylogenetic methods.
Lecture 1 will review 'tree thinking' in linguistics: how trees (and networks) help us think clearly about language relationships and the structural diversity of languages.
In lecture 2 I will apply some of these ideas to investigating phylogenetic and geographic patterns in lexical semantics.
Lecture 3 will go more deeply into quantitative methods for inferring language relationships, and we will begin to explore how modern Bayesian methods of phylogenetic inference open up possibilities for making detailed inferences about aspects of evolutionary processes, such as dating and variation in rates of change.
In Lecture 4 we will look at (i) how an explicit quantitative model of language relationships lets us control for the effect of shared history in typological comparison, as well as (ii) testing hypotheses about processes of structural change, with a particular focus on evolutionary dependencies in syntactic phenomena.
In final lecture (Lecture 5) I will show how a number of different model testing techniques can be applied to infer aspects of the social behaviour of ancient language communities (e.g. marriage practices), as well as in reconstructing the linguistic correlates of social behaviour (such as development of kinship terminologies, areal changes in politeness systems).