Why MultiTree?

MultiTree provides a unique approach to historical linguistic research, representing the most complete collection of language relationship hypotheses in a user-friendly, visually-appealing, and interactive format. Not only is it fun and informative, but it is a useful resource that gathers scholarly work and makes it accessible to academics and the public alike.

MultiTree is also an innovative tool for typological analysis, especially among lesser-known languages. It facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration with linguists to reach more accurate conclusions about human language, culture, and history.


The trees in MultiTree are intended to be faithful representations of their sources, but sometimes it can be difficult to capture a scholar's intentions in a graphical representation. Whenever possible, editors have added comments to disambiguate or clarify their interpretations. However, it is always recommended that users refer to the original source for a better understanding of the scholar's hypothesis.

MultiTree aims to collect as many hypotheses about language relationships as possible so that users may compare them. Inclusion of a tree does not indicate validity of the scholar's hypothesis or acceptance by the academic community.

Regarding contact languages (creoles, pidgins, mixed languages) and language isolates
Although isolates have no known genetic affiliation, and the origins of contact languages are heavily contested, they have been included in the MultiTree database in order to make information about them available to scholars and to accurately represent whatever hypothesis the original scholar is making. "Trees" that include these languages do not reflect genetic affiliation unless this was the intention of the author.


The MultiTree project has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF grant no. 1227106).

The Team

Principal Investigators

2012-2014 MultiTree grant:

Damir Cavar (May 2013 - )
Anthony Aristar (July 2012 - May 2013)
Helen Aristar-Dry (July 2012 - May 2013)

2005-2009 MultiTree grant

Anthony Aristar
Martha Ratliff, Wayne State University

Project manager

Malgorzata Cavar (Nov 2012 - )


Lwin Moe
Lily Zheng

Research Assisants

The initial MultiTree work was done by students from Wayne State University and Eastern Michigan University. It is hosted now at Indiana University in the Department of Linguistics. Over the years many students from universities all over the world have helped continue and improve the project:

  • Fatemeh Abdollahi
  • Catherine Adams
  • Eric Benzschawel
  • Andrea Berez
  • Jessica Boynton
  • Kevin Burrows
  • Qiaochu Chen
  • Calvin Cheng
  • Caylen Cole-Hazel
  • Benjamin Cool
  • Sara Couture
  • Dana Fallon
  • Myles Gurule
  • Uliana Kazagasheva
  • Ania Kubisz
  • Okki Kurniawan
  • Matt Lahrman
  • Seng Lee
  • Monica Lesher
  • Lwin Moe
  • Caela Northey
  • Andrew Peters
  • Nicholas Prokup
  • Evelyn Richter
  • James Rider
  • Emily Remirez
  • Dayn Schulert
  • Susan Smith
  • Danielle St. Jean
  • Jana Thompson
  • Joshua Thompson
  • Bethany Townsend
  • Ememobong Udoh
  • Dwight Van Tuyl
  • Kaveh Varjoy
  • Xiyan Wang
  • Di Wdzenczny
  • Alexander Werny
  • Aaron White
  • Erica Wicks
  • Brent Woo
  • Szu-Hsien Wu

Many interns and students at Indiana University have contributed to the data set and interface, contributing to a sustainable technological environment, in particular:

  • Cloe Chen
  • Lewis
  • Jacob Heredos
  • Noah Kaufman

Advisory Board

A panel of advisors, including language technology experts and distinguished linguists from comparative and historical linguistics, typology, and specific language areas, provide ongoing input throughout the duration of the project:

  • Steven Bird, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, University of Melbourne; Senior Research Associate, Linguistic Data Consortium, University of Pennsylvania
  • Claire Bowern, Associate Professor of Linguistics at Yale University; Affiliate of the Centre for Research on Language Change, Australian National University
  • Lyle Campbell, Professor of Linguistics, University of Hawai'i
  • Bernard Comrie, Director, Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, University of California Santa Barbara
  • Alan Dench, Associate Professor, Linguistics; Head of School, School of Humanities, University of Western Australia
  • Andrew Garrett, Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley
  • Spike Gildea, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Linguistics, University of Oregon
  • Ives Goddard, Senior Linguist, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution
  • Alice Harris, Professor of Linguistics, State University of New York Stony Brook
  • Jeffrey Heath, Professor of Linguistics, University of Michigan
  • Gary Holton, Professor of Linguistics, University of Alaska Fairbanks and Director, Alaska Native Language Archive
  • Jay Jasanoff, Diebold Professor of Indo-European Linguistics and Philology, Department of Linguistics, Harvard University
  • Brian D. Joseph, Distinguished University Professor of Linguistics; Kenneth E. Naylor Professor of South Slavic Linguistics, The Ohio State University; Editor, Language
  • Randy LaPolla, Professor and Chair, Linguistics Department, LaTrobe University, Australia
  • Marianne Mithun, Professor of Linguistics, University of California Santa Barbara
  • Paul Newman, J.D., PhD. Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Linguistics; Adjunct Professor, School of Law, Indiana University
  • Johanna Nichols, Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley
  • Martha Ratliff, Professor of Linguistics, Wayne State University
  • Sarah Thomason, William J. Gedney Collegiate Professor of Linguistics, University of Michigan
  • Joe Salmons, Professor of German, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Co-director, Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, UW-Madison; Editor, Diachronica
  • Joel Sherzer, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Texas; Director of the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America
  • Doug Whalen, Vice President of Research, Haskins Laboratories, Yale University; President, Endangered Languages Fund
In Development
  • A scholar login to enable scholars to edit their trees.
How to Cite MultiTree

In most cases, MultiTree is a secondary source. That is, we strive to represent what a scholar says accurately, but in transcription and modifying information presentation styles, loss of contextual information is inevitable. Thus, it is important to note that any information on this site has been interpreted by MultiTree's team.

An exception to this is a composite tree based on many sources in an attempt to reconcile the most widely-accepted theories about language relationships. For this type of tree, MultiTree is a primary source and may be cited without including a specific scholar's name.

If the tree is not a composite, the majority of the work that went into generating the content presented by our site was done by scholars, and it is important to give them credit. For convenience, publication information is included in the sidebar of every tree. It is often recommended to include the secondary source in the citation page, and the original source in the text.

For instance, in MLA format, such a citation might be:

... Smith argues in Title (2013) that Language A is only distantly related to Language B (as presented in MultiTree), ...

"TreeName: Smith 2013". MultiTree: A digital library of language relationships. Institute for Language Information and Technology: Ypsilanti, MI. 2013. Web. Accessed . Published July 27, 2013 . <http://multitree.org>
Contact Us
If you notice any problems or issues with the website, require more information regarding our process or our program, or simply have other questions you need answered, contact the MultiTree program manager at multitree [at] linguistlist.org.