How did Vanuatu become the Galapagos of Language Evolution?
The small archipelago of Vanuatu is home to about 280.000 people speaking more than 140 languages. Forty-seven of them are spoken on one of the major islands Malekula. How did this linguistic hotspot emerge? Different scenarios are possible. Was it similar to the Austronesian expansion, where in several short pulses many uninhabited islands were colonized resulting in quick diversification events into many languages? Or did the languages evolve at a slow constant pace during the last 3000 years?
This project aims to use phylodynamic methods - as they are well established in epidemiological studies - to answer these questions. This specifically includes birth-death processes that are desgined to model either of the scenarios above.