The Austronesian Comparative Dictionary: Five Years Later

Comparative dictionaries are rare, as they require knowledge of the phonological histories of numerous related languages, together with years of intensive work in assembling cognate sets and providing reconstructions that show how these sets originated from unitary forms.  The Austronesian Comparative Dictionary (ACD) began as a 59-page article published in 1970.  Work leading up to it continued intermittently through the 1970s and 1980s, and culminated in an NSF grant from 1990-1995 which combined all previously published material with new material in a unified online comparative dictionary with about 2,500 base entries and many more affixed forms.  There was then a 15-year lapse when little further work was done on it.  Starting in 2010 a chance meeting of Robert Blust with Stephen Trussel reinvigorated the work, which has expanded dramatically since then both in scope and in computational sophistication.  A report on this exceptionally productive collaboration was given as a Tuesday seminar talk on March 6, 2012, and published in the December, 2013 issue of Oceanic Linguistics.  This talk aims to show how much further growth has taken place in the five years since the first talk, and in doing so to give some idea of the scope, complexity, computational sophistication and scholarly value of a work that is now going on 47 years in the making, and ranks as the largest research project ever undertaken in the study of the Austronesian languages.

NOTE: Please bring your laptops, as part of this talk will require you to use them to call up data samples from the ACD (