Cultural evolution finds many parallels in biological evolution. In certain sense, these two processes are not independent, and one complexly intertwines the other. Project could ideally map the phylogenetic relationship of various modern Chinese dialects, estimate their diversification rate, and compare the phylogeny of dialect characteristics with evolution of other cultural traits. The possible avenue of research may be detection and characterization of various anagenetic trends and local adaptations. The relevant research question is also whether the more adequate model of dialect evolution is the sudden change or gradual transformation. One may also speculate to what extent the process of language evolution is affected by external conditions, or whether intrinsic processes and variational resources play the major role. When constructing the matrices for phylogenetic inference the multiple layers of information such as phonology, semantics, or frequency of loanwords should be considered. Moreover, the rate of the absorption of loan words itself could be considered as one of the measures of dialect evolutionary adaptive potential. In sum, project should investigate regional diffusion patterns and the lexical evolution rate of various Chinese dialects combining linguistic and biological comparative and phylogenetic statistical heuristics.
Five relevant publications of the research group:
Baxter, W. H. (2006). Mandarin dialect phylogeny. Cahiers de linguistique Asie orientale, 35(1), 71-114.
Dong, H. (2020). A history of the Chinese language. Routledge.
Kleisner, K., & Tureček, P. (2017). Cultural and biological evolution: What is the difference?. Biosemiotics, 10(1), 127-130.
Sagart, L., Jacques, G., Lai, Y., Ryder, R. J., Thouzeau, V., Greenhill, S. J., & List, J. M. (2019). Dated language phylogenies shed light on the ancestry of Sino-Tibetan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(21), 10317-10322.
Szeto, P. Y., Ansaldo, U., & Matthews, S. (2018). Typological variation across Mandarin dialects: An areal perspective with a quantitative approach. Linguistic Typology, 22(2), 233-275.Apply to the project