Language reconstruction is one of the dark linguistic arts, but this time Ben and I are getting into it. It’s like going back in time, deciding what early languages must have been like by looking at what languages are like now. So first, we talk about how language reconstruction works, and then we look at a new project where people are getting computers to do the work.
I hate to say this, but as is so often the case in linguistics, big progress is being made by non-linguists — engineers and computer scientists! Linguists sometimes grump that the engineers aren’t familiar enough with the actual work of language reconstruction, but I love the idea of taking linguistic tasks and making them tractable for a computational treatment.
Even though this is kind of dense subject matter, I think we made it interesting. Thanks to Ben, of course.