Divergence-time estimation in Indo-European: The case of Latin


Divergence-time estimation is one of the most important endeavors in historical linguistics. Its importance is matched only by its difficulty. As Bayesian methods of divergence-time estimation have become more common over the past two decades, a number of critical issues have come to the fore, including model sensitivity, the dependence of root-age estimates on uncertain interior-node ages, and the relationship between ancient languages and their modern counterparts. This study addresses these issues in an investigation of a particularly fraught case within Indo-European, the diversification of Latin into the Romance languages. The results of this study support a gradualist account of their formation that most likely begins after 300 CE. They also bolster the view that Classical Latin is a sampled ancestor of the Romance languages (i.e., it lies along the branch leading to the Romance languages).