Computational Linguistics, Volume 45, Issue 4 - December Language change across space and time is one of the main concerns in historical linguistics. In this article, we develop tools to assist researchers and dating dataset experts in the study of language evolution.
First, we introduce a method to automatically determine whether two words are cognates.
We propose an algorithm for extracting cognates from electronic dictionaries that contain etymological information.
Having built a data set of related words, we further develop machine learning methods based on orthographic alignment for identifying cognates.
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We use aligned subsequences as features for classification algorithms in order to infer rules for linguistic changes undergone by words when entering new languages and to discriminate between cognates and non-cognates.
Second, we extend the method to a finer-grained level, to identify the type of relationship between words.
Discriminating between cognates and borrowings provides a deeper insight into the history of a language and allows a better characterization of language relatedness. We dating dataset that orthographic features have discriminative power and we analyze the underlying linguistic factors that prove relevant in the classification task.
To our knowledge, this is the first attempt of this kind. Third, we develop a machine learning method for automatically producing related words. We focus on reconstructing proto-words, but we also address two related sub-problems, producing modern word forms and producing cognates. The task of reconstructing proto-words consists of recreating the words in an ancient language from its modern daughter languages.
Having modern word forms in multiple Romance languages, we infer the form of their common Latin ancestors.
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Our approach relies on the regularities that occurred when words entered the modern languages. We leverage information from several modern languages, building an ensemble system for reconstructing proto-words. We apply our method to multiple data sets, showing that our approach improves on previous results, also having the advantage of requiring less input data, which is essential in historical linguistics, where resources are generally scarce.