Jeremy Collins defends thesis on 19 February

14 February 2024
Thesis cover Jeremy Collins
On 19 February at 12:30 hrs, Jeremy Collins will defend his thesis 'Linguistic Areas and Prehistoric Migrations’ in the Aula of the Radboud University. The event will also be accessible via live-stream.

Link to live-stream

His thesis explores using language structures, such as grammatical and phonological features, to understand language history and human migration patterns.  The first study is on the history of lexical tone (the property of using pitch to differentiate words) in language families such as Niger-Congo and Sino-Tibetan, and a discussion of whether climate has a role in the development of tone, arguing that contact between families may be a sufficient explanation for the concentration of tonal languages in humid regions. The second study is a Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of languages in Eurasia using a database of phonological features, which reveals significant interactions between unrelated languages in areas such as the Caucasus, India, and Southeast Asia. The third study presents original data on East Palaungic languages in Yunnan, China on variation in word order and semantics, and an analysis of this variation with reference to the varying number of nearby Tai speakers, suggesting that these languages have undergone change to varying degrees under the influence of speakers of Tai-Kadai languages. The fourth study compares mitochondrial DNA lineages in Eurasia with the phonological cluster analysis from the second study, arguing for a role in migrations of people between communities in creating phonological similarity between languages.  

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