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Auteur: Claire BOWERN

The life, growth and death of languages

Abstract/Résumé: While there are currently approximately 6,000 languages spoken in the world today, the number of languages in the world is not constant. Existing languages change and they split into new varieties and languages; new languages emerge, and of course, languages cease to be spoken at an alarming rate. Work in this area sits at the intersection of sociolinguistics, anthropological linguistics, historical reconstruction, and language documentation. This session showcases work in all these areas, ranging from the purely linguistic to the socio-historical. In this overview communication, I contextualize the field as it currently stands and offer some suggestions for current areas of productive research. I suggest that historical linguistics is currently undergoing a ‘quantitative revolution’; just as the ability to make precise acoustic measurements on desktop and laptop computers revolutionized phonetics and made it possible to study many more languages in a systematic way, so too the use of computational methods in historical linguistics is revolutionizing our ability to look into the past and combine results from language with other disciplines.