Beyond lexicostatistics

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This article surveys various long-standing ambiguities and confusions that continue to dog lexicostatistics and glottochronology. I aim to offer some novel perspectives and clarifications, which also help map out how we might devise new, alternative methods to build upon the good in Swadesh&#8217;s troubled legacy. I challenge the recent trend towards honing down Swadesh&#8217;s original list to a minimal core. A richer signal on language relationships is to be had not by discarding the data in meanings considered &#8216;unstable&#8217;, but by exploring the revealing <i>patterns</i> that emerge only when those meanings are kept, and contrasted against their &#8216;core&#8217; counterparts.


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