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This study uses phylogenetic methods adopted from computational biology in order to reconstruct features of Proto-Indo-European morphosyntax. We estimate the probability of the presence of typological features in Proto-Indo-European on the assumption that these features change according to a stochastic process governed by evolutionary transition rates between them. We compare these probabilities to previous reconstructions of Proto-Indo-European morphosyntax, which use either the comparative-historical method or implicational typology. We find that our reconstruction yields strong support for a canonical model (synthetic, nominative-accusative, headfinal) of the protolanguage and low support for any alternative model. Observing the evolutionary dynamics of features in our data set, we conclude that morphological features have slower rates of change, whereas syntactic traits change faster. Additionally, more frequent, unmarked traits in grammatical hierarchies have slower change rates when compared to less frequent, marked ones, which indicates that universal patterns of economy and frequency impact language change within the family


Indo-European linguistics, historical linguistics, phylogenetic linguistics, typology, syntactic reconstruction


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