Title

Uto-Aztecan Lexicostatistics 2.0(1)

Abstract

Uto-Aztecan subgrouping has long been the subject of debate. We aim to establish a more up-to-date foundation for Uto-Aztecan lexicostatistics by reexamining Wick Miller’s influential lexicostatistic classification. Miller’s cognate density measure yields a symmetrical table based on the number of cognates each language pairing shares on a modified Swadesh-100 wordlist. However, no language has cognate sets for all word meanings (glosses) on that list. We offer an improved metric, relative cognate density, for analyzing an updated database of Kenneth Hill’s Uto-Aztecan cognate sets. We generate an asymmetrical table dividing the number of pairwise shared cognates (“match counts”) by the number of cognate sets each comparison language actually has available. Employing more standard distance-based clustering algorithms (UPGMA, Neighbor Joining, and NeighborNet), our results align with Miller’s in some respects (e.g., in identifying a Southern-Uto-Aztecan branch but not a Northern-Uto-Aztecan one) but differ in others (e.g., in not identifying “Sonoran”).

Publisher

University of Chicago Press

Publication Date

1-1-2020

Publication Title

International Journal of American Linguistics

Department

Anthropology

Document Type

Article

DOI

10.1086/705752

Keywords

Uto-Aztecan, Lexicostatistics, Relative cognate density, Quantitative approaches to linguistic phylogeny, Historical linguistics

Language

English

Format

text

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