Mentor: Tanmoy Bhattacharya
Linguistic Divergence in Timor
Abstract: The island of Timor, located in South East Asia, experienced a wave of migration from the neighboring islands several thousand years ago, resulting in its domination by the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian languages. The spread of these Languages and their relationships to each other remain poorly understood. Using statistical tools and computation, a data set comprised of words from 53 languages will be analyzed in order to determine how long ago the languages diverged from one another. Regular sound correspondences will be inferred and cognates will be identified to estimate the amount of time that has passed since the languages split. These new methods, incorporating linguistic knowledge, will hopefully compare favorably with current computational strategies and will contribute to a deeper understanding of the movement of the Austronesian people in Timor.