Congratulations to Professor John Coleman who has been awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship.

Congratulations to Professor John Coleman who has been awarded a  Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship.


Eastern Origins of English

Brief summary of the project

 As is well known in linguistics, most European languages are historically related to many “Eastern” languages, such as Persian, Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, Balochi, Lithuanian, Russian and Bosnian. The relatedness of these languages has been firmly established in prior scholarship, based on written texts. During the past decade Prof. Coleman has has pioneered highly innovative computational methods to demonstrate acoustically and audibly how words slowly morphed, over millenia, from “ancestor” pronunciations in Proto-Indo-European into their modern pronunciations. For example, here is an audio demonstration of how the English word “hate” could have derived from its Proto-Indo-European ancester *k̂eh2d-:

To date, this research and those demonstrations have been limited to less than 20 cognate words; this fellowship will enable Prof. Coleman to extend that to “audio etymologies” of several hundred words, showing how word pronunciations in English and their cognates in selected “Eastern” languages developed from Proto-Indo-European. Exploring how prior findings of historical phonology (in terms of text) can be completely re-cast or reimagined in acoustic-phonetic terms will be an ambitious step-change in methodology. All the recordings will be published in the form of an online audio etymological dictionary, including the sound change continua. Because it has not previously been possible to provide sound recordings of ancient pronunciations, no audio etymological dictionary has ever previously existed: this is an entirely new form of language resource.

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