Paper: Improved Reconstruction of Protolanguage Word Forms

ACL ID N09-1008
Title Improved Reconstruction of Protolanguage Word Forms
Venue Human Language Technologies
Session Main Conference
Year 2009

We present an unsupervised approach to re- constructing ancient word forms. The present work addresses three limitations of previous work. First, previous work focused on faith- fulness features, which model changes be- tween successive languages. We add marked- ness features, which model well-formedness within each language. Second, we introduce universal features, which support generaliza- tions across languages. Finally, we increase the number of languages to which these meth- ods can be applied by an order of magni- tude by using improved inference methods. Experiments on the reconstruction of Proto- Oceanic, Proto-Malayo-Javanic, and Classical Latin show substantial reductions in error rate, giving the best results to date.