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Linguistics Colloquium Speaker: David Goldstein

Thursday, October 27, 2022 at 4:30pm to 5:30pm

Morrill Hall, 106
Cornell University Dept, 159 Central Avenue, Morrill Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-4701, USA

The Department of Linguistics proudly presents Dr. David Goldstein, Professor at the Department of Linguistics, UCLA.  Dr. Goldstein will speak on "Divergence-time estimation in Indo-European: The case of Latin".

Divergence-time estimation is one of the most important endeavors in historical linguistics. Its importance is matched only by its difficulty. As Bayesian methods have become more common over the past two decades, two critical issues have come to the fore. The first is that studies of divergence-time estimation have focused preponderately on root ages. Estimates of root ages rely crucially on the timing of clade-level events, but these events, despite being more recent, are often uncertain or even disputed. To put divergence-time estimates on more secure ground, more work at the clade level is essential. The second problem is model sensitivity (e.g., Bromham 2019, Heggarty 2021). Researchers can now select from an array of tree, clock, and character-change models, the choice of which can have a dramatic impact on the estimated divergence times. The question then arises of how to choose among the bounty of modeling options. My talk addresses these two issues in an investigation of a particularly fraught case within Indo-European, the diversification of Latin into the Romance languages. The results of this study support a gradualist account of the formation of the Romance languages that most likely began between 250 and 500 CE. It also offers strong support (with a posterior probability over 80%) for the view that Classical Latin is a sampled ancestor of the Romance languages. At a more general level, I demonstrate that problems of model specification can be mitigated at least to an extent with increased model exploration and tests of model sensitivity and adequacy.

David holds a joint position in the Department of Linguistics and Program in Indo-European Studies at UCLA as well as a courtesy appointment in the Department of Classics. His research is devoted to two broad areas. The first is the relationship between language change and linguistic theory, with a particular focus on syntactic and morphosyntactic change in Indo-European. The second is computational phylogenetics.  From December 2022 through July 2023, David will be a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge. During Easter Term 2023, he will be a Lewis-Gibson Fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Greek Studies.

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Heather Russell

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David Goldstein

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Please contact Heather Russell at at least 72 hours in advance of the event with accommodation requests.

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