Linguistic Distances and Ethnolinguistic Fractionalization and Disenfranchisement Indices

  • Victor Ginsburgh
  • Shlomo Weber


Ruhlen (1994) reconstructed 27 words of the very first language. Some linguists raised eyebrows about the words themselves, but not so much about the idea that all our languages descend from one, or a very small number of, language(s).1 Today, most linguists think that the diversity of languages is the result of the migration ‘out of Africa’ of Homo sapiens over the last 50,000 to 100,000 years (Michalopoulos, 2012; Ashraf and Galor, 2013). If this is so, languages can be represented in the form of a tree similar to genealogical trees, starting with a root representing the first language, or ancestor, and followed by branches and twigs for descendants. This implies of course that languages are related by their vocabulary, syntax, phonology, etc. in the same way as children are related to their parents and more distant ancestors by some of their genes. Genetic differences are relatively easy to trace and DNA analyses have become common, for instance, in the case of disputed parenthood. It is, however, more difficult to ‘count’ the (dis)similarities between languages, since many characteristics, and not only vocabularies, are involved.


Linguistic Diversity Linguistic Group Levenshtein Distance Ethnic Fractionalization Peripheral Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Victor Ginsburgh and Shlomo Weber 2016

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  • Victor Ginsburgh
  • Shlomo Weber

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