Both qualitative concepts and quantitative methods from evolutionary biology have been applied to linguistics. Many linguists have noted the similarity between biological evolution and language change, but usually have employed only selective analogies or metaphors. The development of generalized theories of evolutionary change (Dawkins and Hull) has spawned models of language change on the basis of such generalized theories. These models have led to the positing of new mechanisms of language change and new types of selection that may not have biological parallels. Quantitative methods have been applied to questions of language phylogeny in the past decade. Research has focused on widely accepted families with cognates already established by the comparative method (Indo-European, Bantu, Austronesian). Increasingly sophisticated phylogeny reconstruction models have been applied to these families to resolve questions of subgrouping, contact, and migration. Little progress has been made so far in analyzing sound correspondences in the cognates themselves.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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