CfP: Phylometric and phylogenetic approaches in the Humanities

20 Aug 2012 - 00:00

Date: November 22nd-24th, 2012
Location: University of Bern, Switzerland

The analysis of large sets of genetic data with phylogenetic algorithms has a long tradition in biology. In the recent past, these methods have also been gaining increasing importance in the humanities, e.g. linguistics (e.g. Warnow and Nichols 2008; McMahon and McMahon 2005), literary studies (e.g. Windram, Shaw, Robinson and Howe 2008) or anthropology (e.g. Tehrani, Collard and Shennan 2010) where they have been used for the visualisation and analysis of different kinds of data such as comparative word lists, manuscript traditions or other types of cultural artefacts.


The workshop “Phylometric and phylogenetic approaches in the humanities” makes a contribution towards evaluating these innovative approaches. We would like to bring together specialists from different disciplines to discuss and exchange ideas about possible applications and limitations of “phylomemetics” (Howe and Windram 2011).

We invite contributors from all disciplines who have applied phylogenetic methods to humanistic research problems. Since a tutorial about the application of phylogenetic methods inliterary studies and linguistics will be taking place prior to the workshop(November 22nd–23rd), we would especially welcome papers dealing with issues from other humanistic disciplines such as anthropology,archaeology, art history etc.

Please send your abstract (500 characters at maximum) by September 20th, 2012 to the following e-mail address: bernphylogeny[at]


The tutorial “Phylometric and phylogenetic approaches in the humanities” is designed for doctoral students, post-doc researchers and others who would like to get acquainted with these innovative approaches. The tutorial offers a hands-onintroduction to application possibilities of these methods based on data sets from different disciplines. While the focus is on data from linguistics andliterary studies, participants from other subject areas are especially welcome since we believe that interdisciplinary exchange on the use of such methods in non-genetic application domains is beneficial for all parties involved.

The tutorial will provide
- an overview on phylometric approaches in the humanities
- an introduction to the use of relevant computer programs (Paup, SplitsTree)
- the opportunity to practice the application of the methods by means of prepareddata sets.

There might be the possibility for the participants to work on their own data during the tutorial. This will, however, depend on the number of participants and other factors. More information considering this option will follow in a later circular. The tutorial will be taught by Heather F. Windram (Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge) and Christoph Wolk (FRIAS, Albert-Ludwig-Universität Freiburg).

The tutorial will be followed by a one-day workshop on the same topic on November 24th, 2012.  Participants in the tutorial are encouraged to attend the workshop as well.  The participation is free of charge and made possible by a grant by Bern University’s Mittelbauvereinigung and funding by the Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS).
Please send your application by October 1st, 2012 to

Please include your name and affiliation and a short statement concerning your background and your interest in the tutorial. Specifically, it is important to us to understand how well you are acquainted with phylogenetic and/or otherquantitative or computational methods, and what data you are interested in working with.

Feel free to contact us, if there should be any remaining questions.


Kathrin Chlench, Institut für Germanistik, Universität Bern
Gabriel Viehhauser, Institut für Germanistik, Universität Bern
Ruprecht von Waldenfels, Institut für slavische Sprachen und Literaturen, Universität Bern
Manuel Widmer, Institut für Sprachwissenschaft, Universität Bern
Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS), Universität Bern



McMahon and McMahon (2005), Language Classification by Numbers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Nichols and Warnow (2008), Tutorial on Computational Linguistic Phylogeny. Language and Linguistics Compass, 2:760–820.
Windram, Shaw, Robinson, Howe (2008): Dante's Monarchia as a test case for the use of phylogenetic methods in stemmatic analysis. LLC 23(4): 443-463;
Tehrani, Collard and Shennan (2010), The cophylogeny of populations and cultures: reconstructing the evolution of Iranian tribal craft traditions using trees and jungles. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 365(1559): 3865-3874.
Howe and Windram  (2011): Phylomemetics – evolutionary analysis beyond the gene. PLoS Biology 9: 1-5.