Challenges of annotation and analysis in computer-assisted language comparison: A case study on Burmish languages

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Abstract

The use of computational methods in comparative linguistics is growing in popularity. The increasing deployment of such methods draws into focus those areas in which they remain inadequate as well as those areas where classical approaches to language comparison are untransparent and inconsistent. In this paper we illustrate specific challenges which both computational and classical approaches encounter when studying South-East Asian languages. With the help of data from the Burmish language family we point to the challenges resulting from missing annotation standards and insufficient methods for analysis and we illustrate how to tackle these problems within a computer-assisted framework in which computational approaches are used to pre-analyse the data while linguists attend to the detailed analyses.

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