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Measures of lexical distance between languages

Listed author(s):
  • Petroni, Filippo
  • Serva, Maurizio

The idea of measuring distance between languages seems to have its roots in the work of the French explorer Dumont D’Urville (1832) [13]. He collected comparative word lists for various languages during his voyages aboard the Astrolabe from 1826 to 1829 and, in his work concerning the geographical division of the Pacific, he proposed a method for measuring the degree of relation among languages. The method used by modern glottochronology, developed by Morris Swadesh in the 1950s, measures distances from the percentage of shared cognates, which are words with a common historical origin. Recently, we proposed a new automated method which uses the normalized Levenshtein distances among words with the same meaning and averages on the words contained in a list. Recently another group of scholars, Bakker et al. (2009) [8] and Holman et al. (2008) [9], proposed a refined version of our definition including a second normalization. In this paper we compare the information content of our definition with the refined version in order to decide which of the two can be applied with greater success to resolve relationships among languages.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications.

Volume (Year): 389 (2010)
Issue (Month): 11 ()
Pages: 2280-2283

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Handle: RePEc:eee:phsmap:v:389:y:2010:i:11:p:2280-2283
DOI: 10.1016/j.physa.2010.02.004
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