A Computer-Aided Reconstruction of Proto-Languages
Professor Peter Z. Revesz
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
The reconstruction of proto-languages is traditionally a difficult task in linguistics, but computers can aid in various ways in the proto-language reconstructions. In particular, computers can automatically search huge dictionaries of words for possible cognates in more languages than any person could search in a lifetime. That is important because usually the larger the set of possible cognate words that are collected, the more reliable reconstructions can be made. We present a computer program that searches for cognates from all the languages that are available in the Palaeolexicon of ancient words (https://www.palaeolexicon.com), the DAMOS library (https://www2.hf.uio.no/damos/) of Mycenaean Greek, and other libraries. Our computer-aided reconstruction yields a set of proto-words that occur in several languages in different language families. The wide spread of these Eurasian proto-words suggests that they are associated with the earliest Neolithic cultures in the Near East and Southeastern Europe, and they likely form a substrate in all later languages in that region.
Brief Biography of the Speaker:
Peter Z. Revesz holds a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from Brown University (dissertation title: Constraint Query Languages, advisor: Paris C. Kanellakis). He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto before joining the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he is a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. He is an expert in databases, data mining and analytics, bioinformatics and computational linguistics. He is the author of Introduction to Databases: From Biological to Spatio-Temporal (Springer, 2010) and Introduction to Constraint Databases (Springer, 2002). Dr. Revesz held visiting appointments at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, INRIA, the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science, the University of Athens, the University of Hasselt, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the U.S. Department of State. He is a recipient of an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship, a J. William Fulbright Scholarship, an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship, a Jefferson Science Fellowship, a National Science Foundation CAREER award, and a Faculty International Scholar of the Year award by Phi Beta Delta, the Honor Society for International Scholars.