Computational dialectology in Irish Gaelic
9503002 | cmp-lg
Dialect groupings can be discovered objectively and automatically by cluster analysis of phonetic transcriptions such as those found in a linguistic atlas. The first step in the analysis, the computation of linguistic distance between each pair of sites, can be computed as Levenshtein distance between phonetic strings. This correlates closely with the much more laborious technique of determining and counting isoglosses, and is more accurate than the more familiar metric of computing Hamming distance based on whether vocabulary entries match. In the actual clustering step, traditional agglomerative clustering works better than the top-down technique of partitioning around medoids. When agglomerative clustering of phonetic string comparison distances is applied to Gaelic, reasonable dialect boundaries are obtained, corresponding to national and (within Ireland) provincial boundaries.