CHIELD: the causal hypotheses in evolutionary linguistics database

Seán G. Roberts, Anton Killin, Angarika Deb, Catherine Sheard, Simon J. Greenhill, Kaius Sinnemäki, José Segovia-Martín, Jonas Nölle, Aleksandrs Berdicevskis, Archie Humphreys-Balkwill, Hannah Little, Christopher Opie, Guillaume Jacques, Lindell Bromham, Peeter Tinits, Robert M. Ross, Sean Lee, Emily Gasser, Jasmine Calladine, Matthew SpikeStephen Francis Mann, Olena Shcherbakova, Ruth Singer, Shuya Zhang, Antonio Benítez-Burraco, Christian Kliesch, Ewan Thomas-Colquhoun, Hedvig Skirgård, Monica Tamariz, Sam Passmore, Thomas Pellard, Fiona Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Language is one of the most complex of human traits. There are many hypotheses about how it originated, what factors shaped its diversity, and what ongoing processes drive how it changes. We present the Causal Hypotheses in Evolutionary Linguistics Database (CHIELD,, a tool for expressing, exploring, and evaluating hypotheses. It allows researchers to integrate multiple theories into a coherent narrative, helping to design future research. We present design goals, a formal specification, and an implementation for this database. Source code is freely available for other fields to take advantage of this tool. Some initial results are presented, including identifying conflicts in theories about gossip and ritual, comparing hypotheses relating population size and morphological complexity, and an author relation network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101–120
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Language Evolution
Issue number2
Early online date16 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • causal graphs
  • causal inference
  • database

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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