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Linguistic traits as heritable units? Spatial Bayesian clustering reveals Swiss German dialect regions


Romano, Noemi; Ranacher, Peter; Bachmann, Sandro; Joost, Stéphane (2022). Linguistic traits as heritable units? Spatial Bayesian clustering reveals Swiss German dialect regions. Journal of Linguistic Geography:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

In the early 2000s, the SADS, an extensive linguistic atlas project, surveyed more than three thousand individuals across German-speaking Switzerland on over two hundred linguistic variants, capturing the morphosyntactic variation in Swiss German. In this paper, we applied TESS, a Bayesian clustering method from evolutionary biology to the SADS to infer population structure, building on parallels between biology and linguistics that have recently been illustrated theoretically and explored experimentally. We tested three clustering models with different spatial assumptions: a nonspatial model, a spatial trend model with a spatial gradient, and a spatial full-trend model with both a spatial gradient and spatial-autocorrelation. Results reveal five distinct morphosyntactic populations, four of which correspond to traditional Swiss German dialect regions and one of which corresponds to a base population. Moreover, the spatial trend model outperforms the nonspatial model, suggesting a gradual transition of morphosyntax and supporting the idea of a Swiss German dialect continuum.

Abstract

In the early 2000s, the SADS, an extensive linguistic atlas project, surveyed more than three thousand individuals across German-speaking Switzerland on over two hundred linguistic variants, capturing the morphosyntactic variation in Swiss German. In this paper, we applied TESS, a Bayesian clustering method from evolutionary biology to the SADS to infer population structure, building on parallels between biology and linguistics that have recently been illustrated theoretically and explored experimentally. We tested three clustering models with different spatial assumptions: a nonspatial model, a spatial trend model with a spatial gradient, and a spatial full-trend model with both a spatial gradient and spatial-autocorrelation. Results reveal five distinct morphosyntactic populations, four of which correspond to traditional Swiss German dialect regions and one of which corresponds to a base population. Moreover, the spatial trend model outperforms the nonspatial model, suggesting a gradual transition of morphosyntax and supporting the idea of a Swiss German dialect continuum.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of German Studies
07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Research Priority Programs > Language and Space
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, Environmental Engineering
Language:English
Date:2 May 2022
Deposited On:13 May 2022 13:57
Last Modified:16 May 2022 05:53
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:2049-7547
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/jlg.2021.12

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