The genealogical classification of languages has been the subject of investigation for more than two centuries, and progress continues to be made in deepening our understanding of language change, both in theoretical terms and in the study of specific language families. In recent years, as in the past, many new proposals of linguistic relationships have been constructed, some promising to various degrees and others clearly untenable. The debate about specific recent proposals is part of the healthy process needed to evaluate proposed relationships, discard those that prove incorrect, and refine those of merit. Rather than evaluating the relative linguistic “distance” between potentially related languages, with temporal distance leading to some point where we cannot distinguish real relationships from chance similarities, we propose a scale of easy to difficult relationships in which temporal distance is only one factor that makes some relationships more recognizable than others.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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