Originating in Africa, homo sapiens spread across the globe, and with it the human language. A project is now underway to trace the genealogy of the world's languages with the help of highly advanced methods borrowed from big data, genetics and geostatistics.
Together, researchers from linguistics, genetics and geoinformatics want to investigate the connection between the spread of humans across the globe and how the different languages developed as part of the NCCR project "Evolving Language".
For this purpose, geostatistics and informatics specialist Robert Weibel and his team have developed simulations which highlight past events such as large-scale migration in a particular part of the world, triggered by environmental factors such as climatic changes. Such migratory movements would have led to new contacts being formed between previously distant groups of people, but could also cause related groups to drift apart. Both of these changes are reflected in the genetic makeup and the language of a community.
Illustrations: Anna Sommer