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Evolution

Themes and actions

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Databases: CaSSoPi, BDPRoto, DEEPER, Fishes of Gabon


  Contact person
Christian FRESSARD , Egidio MARSICO

Scientific framework and objectives

With the drastic advances in computer sciences, designing and exploiting computerized databases has led to fructuous research programs in linguistics. Among others topics, the questions related to the diversity and evolution of the world’s languages have been addressed in new and original fashions, whether at the level of typology, historical reconstruction or modelling of changes. Although they require a rather substantial investment in time in order to collect, record and display the data in a uniform way, databases allow researchers to: i) better characterize a phenomenon in its diversity (geographical or temporal distribution, representative samples, etc.) ii) conduct various analyzes, especially of statistical nature, to shed light on the mechanisms underlying the distribution of the data iii) use realistic data as entries of various models.

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To take advantage of the expertises in linguistics and computer sciences of several members of the laboratory, we aim at designing various databases and interfaces to address the question of the evolution of languages. Most of the linguistic domains that are currently investigated by members of the team, whether semantics, phonology or historical linguistics, may greatly benefit from databases of the sounds or words of the world’s languages.

In addition to an efficient use of the UPSID database, a database compiled by Ian Maddieson which contains the phonological systems of 451 modern languages (see research operation 1.1), one of our goals is the creation of a database of proto phonological systems reconstructed by specialists in historical linguistics. This would allow comparisons between older and more recent systems, and perhaps the discovery of various evolutionary tendencies.
Another aspect of this research operation is the design of databases in link with reconstruction and analysis of contacts between languages. On the one hand, we try to build databases focusing on specific vocabulary of modern languages to trace fine-grained lexical evolutions. On the other hand, an ambitious project is the creation of a database gathering a large set of lexical data regarding proto-languages proposed by specialists in historical linguistics, for the sake of i) compilation, ii) evaluation of the process of reconstruction and its productions, and finally iii) exploitation via computerized methods aiming at easing reconstruction and the treatment of data.


  Financial support
  • PICS

    CNRS

  Publications
  • Marsico, E., 1998, "BDPROTO: a typological view of proto phonological systems", proc. of 2nd International Conference on the Evolution of Language, Londres, Royaume-Uni, Avril
  • Marsico, E., 1999, "What can a database of proto-languages tell us about the last 10,000 years of sound changes ?", proc. of XIVth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, San Francisco, Août
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