Research Marisa Köllner


My interest in using computational methods in linguistics increased with my study of computational linguistics. Since then I'm also interested in combining my interests in historical linguistics and computational linguistics.
Therefore, my research focuses on the application and adaption of bioinformatic, especially phylogenetic, methods into the field of historical linguistics. My main research interests include language contact, the resulting language change, borrowing, and their corresponding parallel in phylogenetics.
I'm exploring the adaption of computational methods from phylogenetics into linguistics for an automatic detection of loanwords and language contact.


The most fascinating thing about language is that it is one of the biggest and fastest changing systems in humanity. Due to the contact of languages, the languages change rapidly and develop further over years. In historical linguistics, the process of borrowing words due to language contact is a well-known evolutionary process.
Speaking about evolution, linguistic and biological evolution show certain parallels. Especially the parallels between phylogenetics and linguistics arouse the interest of combining both fields. Based on these parallels, the methods from phylogenetics can be adapted into historical linguistics. This is what I call, PhyloLinguistics.
Borrowing also has its corresponding parallel within phylogenetics, namely horizontal gene transfer. The similarity between borrowing and horizontal gene transfer is the transfer of genes or words whereas the organism or languages are not related.
Therefore, my main interest is to combine the methods from phylogenetics and linguistics and adapt methods for an automatic detection of language contact, language change and of course borrowing.


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Professional Activities