Toward an automated classification of Englishes

Søren Wichmann and Matthias Urban

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Toward an automated classification of Englishes

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics



As part of the Automated Similarity Judgment Program (ASJP), a simple method for comparing languages or language varieties has been developed. The method involves the comparison of words with the same meaning and the measurement of phonological differences between such words using a different version of the so-called Levenshtein distance (LD), which measures the number of substitutions, deletions, and insertions needed to turn one string of symbols into another. Subsequently distances between pairs of speech varieties can be obtained by averaging distances among the different words that are being compared. This approach was implemented by dialectologists working on Irish and Dutch, and has more recently been applied to several other languages and language families. This article describes a relatively new methodology, that of an automated lexicostatistics using the LD, which treats dialects and creoles in essentially the same way in investigating varieties of the English language.

Keywords: Automated Similarity Judgment Program; Levenshtein distance; English; automated lexicostatistics; dialects; creoles; typology; linguistics

Article.  3717 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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