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URPP Language and Space

Nico Neureiter

Nico Neureiter, M.Sc.

  • Doctoral student SDS Group
044 63 55229
Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich
Room number
Y25 J 92

Nico Neureiter joined the URPP Language and Space Lab in January 2018.

PhD project

Travelling with Speakers Through Time and Space: Spatio-Temporal Modelling of Language Change

Natural languages, as spoken nowadays, changed and evolved over time. Studying this evolutionary process using spatio-temporal models can give insights about migrations of the speakers in space and about the process of language change itself. Recently, Bayesian phylogeographic approaches have been adapted to linguistics and applied to case studies on different language families. However, some of their findings are highly debated and the lack of historical data makes it hard to validate these models. 
In my dissertation project I develop a tool for spatio-temporal simulations of language evolution. Using these simulations we can demonstrate scenarios in which phylogeographic models fail to recover the true history behind the data. We apply this approach to evaluate two hypotheses: 1. "Phylogeographic methods fail to recover drift in human migrations" and 2. "Phylogenetic methods fail to recover the true relationship between languages under significant levels of borrowing". The latter example will be addressed again in a later stage of my PhD, where I want to extend current phylogeographic methods to account for borrowing.

Supervisor: Robert Weibel, Peter Ranacher

Funding source: URPP Language and Space

spread of languages
In my first project I simulate the spread of languages in space to show the effect of drift on phylogeographic reconstructions. On the left side we see a simple diffusion scenario, where the phylogeographic reconstruction seems to work. On the right side we see that global drift (a bias in a fixed direction) makes a correct phylogeographic reconstruction impossible.


"Travelling with speakers through time and space: spatio-temporal modelling of language change", 6.11.2018, PhD concept presentation, Colloquium Geographic Information Science, University of Zurich


2018 - present

University of Zurich, GIS Group, URPP Language and Space Lab 

PhD in Geographic Information Science 

Research topic: Spatio-Temporal Modelling of Language Change


ETH Zurich

M.Sc. in Computer Science

Master thesis: A Bayesian Approach to Learning User Preferences


ETH Zurich

B.Sc. in Computer Science

Bachelor thesis: Verifying Unsatisfiability Using a Certificate


Matura with focus in computer science

Bundesoberstufenrealgymnasium Salzburg-Nonntal