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Computing and Historical Phonology

9th Meeting of ACL Special Interest Group for Computational Morphology and Phonology

Chairs: John Nerbonne, Greg Kondrak, Mark Ellison

Workshop Description and Motivation

Ninth Meeting of the ACL Special Interest Group in Computational Morphology and Phonology

The workshop will be open to all areas of computation applied to morphology and phonology. Papers will be on substantial, original, and unpublished research on any aspect of computational phonology and computational morphology. But we wish to focus on papers on historical phonology.

Background on Computing and Historical Phonology

Historical phonology is the study of how the sounds and sound systems of a language evolve, and includes research issues concerning the triggering of sound changes; their temporal and geographic propagation (including lexical diffusion); the regularity/irregularity of sound change; the role of borrowing and analogy in sound change; the interaction of sound change with the phonemic system (potentially promoting certain changes, but also neutralizing phonemic distinctions); and the detection of these phenomena in historical documents.

There is a substantial and growing body of work applying computational techniques of various sorts to problems in historical phonology. We mention a few here to give a flavor of the sort of work we would like to see presented as a coherent theme in a SIGMORPHON workshop. Kessler (2001) estimates the likelihood of chance correspondences using permutation statistics; Kondrak (2002) develops algorithms to detect cognates and sound correspondences; McMahon and McMahon (2005) and also Nakhleh, Ringe and Warnow (2005) apply phylogenetic techniques to comparative reconstruction; and Ellison and Kirby (2006) suggest means of detecting relationships which do not depend on word by word comparisons. But we hasten to add that many more important problems may also be addressed computationally (see below).


The purpose of the workshop is to bring together researchers interested in applying computational techniques to problems in historical phonology. We deliberately define the scope of the workshop broadly to include problems such as identifying spelling variants in older manuscripts, searching for cognates, hypothesizing and confirming sound changes and/or sound correspondences, modeling likely sound changes, the relation between synchronic social and geographic variation to historical change, the detection of phonetic signals of relatedness among potentially related languages, phylogenetic reconstruction based on sound correspondences among languages, dating historical changes, or others.

We are emphatically open to proposals to apply techniques from other areas to problems in historical phonology such as applying work on confusable product names to the modeling of likely sound correspondences or the application of phylogenetic analysis from evolutionary biology to the problem of phonological reconstruction.


Brett Kessler, Washington University, St. Louis, will speak on word similarity metrics and multilateral comparison.

Call for papers

Submissions now closed.

Papers are invited on substantial, original, and unpublished research on all aspects of computational morphology and phonology, where we are especially interested in reports on work investigating historical phonology, including detecting historical relationships, analysing and verifying putative detections, the interpretation of results of work on computing and historical phonology. For other potential areas of relevance, see above. The submission deadline is March 26.

Submissions should follow the two-column format of ACL proceedings and should not exceed eight (8) pages, including references. We strongly recommend the use of the LaTeX style files or Microsoft Word document template that will be made available on the conference Web site (see: here). We reserve the right to reject submissions that do not conform to these styles, including font size restrictions.

As reviewing will be blind, the paper should not include the authors' names and affiliations. Furthermore, self-references that reveal the author's identity, e.g., "We previously showed (Smith, 1991) ...", should be avoided. Instead, use citations such as "Smith previously showed (Smith, 1991) ...". Papers that do not conform to these requirements will be rejected without review.

Submission will be electronic. The only accepted format for submitted papers is Adobe PDF. The papers must be submitted no later than March 26, 2007. Papers submitted after that time will not be reviewed. For details of the submission procedure, please consult the submission webpage reachable via the conference website.

Questions regarding the submission procedure should be directed to the Program Co-Chairs, John Nerbonne, Greg Kondrak and/or Mark Ellison (j.nerbonne at rug.nl, kondrak at cs.ualberta.ca, mark at markellison.net).

Papers that are being submitted in parallel to other conferences or workshops must indicate this on the title page, as must papers that contain significant overlap with previously published work. Please use the abstract or the title footnote for noting these complications.

For LaTeX and Word Templates, see here.

26 March
Abstract Submission Deadline
20 April
Reports to Authors
1 May
Authors' Final Copy to Editors
28 June
Workshop in Prague

Program Committee

Chris Brew, Ohio State University
Pierre Darlu, Paris
Michael Dunn, Max Planck, Nijmegen
Sheila Embleton, York University, Toronto
Hans Goebl, Salzburg
Russell Gray, Auckland
Sheldon Harrison, Western Australia
Wilbert Heeringa, Groningen
Brian Joseph, Ohio State University
Brett Kessler, Washington University, St. Louis
Simon Kirby, Edinburgh
Bill Kretzschmar, Georgia
Franz Manni, Paris
Hermann Moisl, Newcastle
David Nash, Australian National University, Canberra
Michael Oakes, Sunderland
Jon Patrick, Sydney
Gerald Penn, Toronto
Janet Pierrehumbert, Northwestern
Thomas Pilz, Duisburg
Joe Salmons, Wisconsin
Tandy Warnow, University of Texas


Ellison, Mark and Simon Kirby (2006) "Measuring Language Divergence by Intra-Lexical Comparison". Proc. ACL 2006, Sydney, 273-280.

Kessler, Brett (2001) The Significance of Word Lists. CSLI: Stanford.

Kondrak, Grzegorz (2002) Algorithms for Language Reconstruction. Ph.D Thesis, University of Toronto, July.

McMahon, April and Rob McMahon (2005) Language Classification by Numbers, OUP: Oxford.

Nakhleh, Luay, Don Ringe and Tandy Warnow (2005) "Perfect phylogenetic networks: A new methodology for reconstructing the evolutionary history of natural languages". Language 81(2), 382-420.

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