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Evaluating proposals of language genealogical relationship

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The Beck-Wichmann-Brown (BWB) system

image of Language Dynamics and Change

In an endeavor to objectify and provide uniformity to the comparative method of historical linguistics, this study describes the Beck-Wichmann-Brown (BWB) system for evaluating lexical sets assembled as evidence for proposals of language genealogical relationship. The approach quantitatively assesses the degree of support that collections of comparative sets provide for proposals, with regard to whether or not observed lexical similarity exceeds coincidental expectation. BWB is illustrated through application to an assemblage of 51 comparative sets compiled by Pache (2016) for the affiliation of Pumé and Chocoan languages of South America. This study presents and ranks BWB quantitative results for 65 language comparisons (of global distribution) and proposes a framework for interpreting ranked findings. Evaluations for the 65 comparisons are compared with those provided by three online classifications of the world’s languages.

Affiliations: 1: Northern Illinois University

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