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LUCDH Lunch Talk: "When Computers Tell Stories"

Wednesday 2 October 2019
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference Room 2.60

When Computers Tell Stories – Quantitative Approaches to Language Evolution


Join us for the first of our 2019-2020 series of LUCDH Lunch talks on the exciting applications of Digital Humanities to research. Jelena Prokic, who has been recently appointed to LUCDH as Assistant Professor, will present on quantitative approaches to language evolution.

Languages change constantly and scholarly people have already observed this in ancient times. While back then language change was considered a ‘decay,’ or ‘corruption of a holy speech’, modern linguistics see it as a fact, i.e., an everlasting process that does not lead to a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ languages, but tries to explain how and why languages change.  Findings about language change are important for linguistic theory in general, but also for understanding of human cognition, human society and history. In the past two centuries language change has systematically been studied in several linguistic disciplines, but it is still not fully understood why languages change and what the dynamics of language change are.

In this presentation I will talk about quantitative approaches to these long-standing questions  -- an attempt to use exact methods from machine learning and computational phylogenetics  to study relatedness between language varieties, as well as the relationship between language history and other aspects of human history, such as demography or social structure. I will present several case studies and address the benefits and problems of using quantitative methods in this type of research. 

For further information and to confirm your space, please email lucdh@hum.leidenuniv.nl

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