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lexicostatistics


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A technique devised by the US linguists Morris Swadesh (1909–67) and Robert Benjamin Lees (1922–96) in the late 1940s for studying the vocabularies of languages, especially to trace historical links with other languages through glottochronology. Using a list of 100 basic words (such as I, you, not, tree, father, two), the number of words in the two languages that are recognizably similar or cognate can be counted, and the fewer the cognate words, the longer they are assumed to have been separated: on average, two languages have 86 per cent in common after 1,000 years of separation. See also Indo-European. [From Greek lexis a word, from legein to speak + statistics]

Subjects: Psychology.


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