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Journal Article

Challenges of sampling and how phylogenetic comparative methods help: with a case study of the Pama-Nyungan laminal contrast


Round,  Erich
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Macklin-Cordes, J. L., & Round, E. (2022). Challenges of sampling and how phylogenetic comparative methods help: with a case study of the Pama-Nyungan laminal contrast. Linguistic Typology, 26(3): 2201.00195, pp. 533-572. doi:10.1515/lingty-2021-0025.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-C70D-9
Phylogenetic comparative methods are new in our field and are shrouded, for most linguists, in at least a little mystery. Yet the path that led to their discovery in comparative biology is so similar to the methodological history of balanced sampling, that it is only an accident of history that they were not discovered by a typologist. Here we clarify the essential logic behind phylogenetic comparative methods and their fundamental relatedness to a deep intellectual tradition focussed on sampling. Then we introduce concepts, methods and tools which will enable typologists to use these methods in everyday typological research. The key commonality of phylogenetic comparative methods and balanced sampling is that they attempt to deal with statistical non-independence due to genealogy. Whereas sampling can never achieve independence and requires most comparative data to be discarded, phylogenetic comparative methods achieve independence while retaining and using all data. We discuss the essential notions of phylogenetic signal; uncertainty about trees; typological averages and proportions that are sensitive to genealogy; comparison across language families; and the effects of areality. Extensive supplementary materials illustrate computational tools for practical analysis and we illustrate the methods discussed with a typological case study of the laminal contrast in Pama-Nyungan