Cladistic methods in linguistics and Dollo’s Law


  • Lukas Reinarz Radboud University Nijmegen


Cladistic methods used for making phylogenetic family trees of biological species are an important tool in evolutionary biology and linguistics. They are based on the assumption that a group of species sharing the same genetic features (genotypes) must have evolved from the same common ancestor and that such features cannot come back once vanished. However, language change can be cyclic and a law in evolutionary biology, Dollo’s law, states that only features that are not genetically coded (phenotypes) can evolve in a cyclic way. Since linguistic features are phenotypic, cladistic methods used in linguistics are not reliable.


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How to Cite

Reinarz, L. (2015). Cladistic methods in linguistics and Dollo’s Law. Student Undergraduate Research E-Journal!, 1. Retrieved from



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