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Grambank reveals the importance of genealogical constraints on linguistic diversity and highlights the impact of language loss

MPS-Authors

Skirgård,  Hedvig
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology;
Australian National University, Canberra;

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Hammarström,  Harald       
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Uppsala University;

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Collins,  Jeremy
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Radboud University;

Lesage,  Jakob
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology;
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) ;
Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO);
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin;

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Dunn,  Michael
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Uppsala University;

Van der Meer,  Suzanne
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

Peacock,  Jesse
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Radboud University;

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De Sousa,  Hilário
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS);

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Levinson,  Stephen C.
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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sciadv.adg6175.pdf
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Citation

Skirgård, H., Haynie, H. J., Blasi, D. E., Hammarström, H., Collins, J., Latarche, J. J., et al. (2023). Grambank reveals the importance of genealogical constraints on linguistic diversity and highlights the impact of language loss. Science Advances, 9(16): eadg6175. doi:10.1126/sciadv.adg6175.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-017F-4
Abstract
While global patterns of human genetic diversity are increasingly well characterized, the diversity of human languages remains less systematically described. Here, we outline the Grambank database. With over 400,000 data points and 2400 languages, Grambank is the largest comparative grammatical database available. The comprehensiveness of Grambank allows us to quantify the relative effects of genealogical inheritance and geographic proximity on the structural diversity of the world’s languages, evaluate constraints on linguistic diversity, and identify the world’s most unusual languages. An analysis of the consequences of language loss reveals that the reduction in diversity will be strikingly uneven across the major linguistic regions of the world. Without sustained efforts to document and revitalize endangered languages, our linguistic window into human history, cognition, and culture will be seriously fragmented.