There has been much discussion about the reproducibility of research and how it can be improved (Munafò et al. 2017). One antidote to the “reproducibility crisis” seems obvious: data sharing. However, one additional point that is not mentioned as often is the standardization of shared data to make them comparable. Especially for cross-linguistic studies, this is an important step that needs to take place so that we can conduct reproducible studies in different languages. The NoRaRe database (Tjuka et al. 2021a) is a resource that provides standardized cross-linguistic data on norms, ratings, and relations published in psychology and linguistics. In this blog post, I describe a beginner’s guide to adding data sets to NoRaRe.
One of the crucial steps in creating a database of lexical cognates is the selection of concepts one wants to use for a given study. While many scholars use the classical Swadesh list of 200 items) (Swadesh 1952) for this purpose, or the combined list of 207 items, in which the former has been merged with Swadesh’s updated list of 100 items (Swadesh 1955), and which is often mistakenly attributed to Swadesh himself, although the first official reference seems to be Comrie (1977), it is useful to give the selection of concepts some more thought initially.
One of the major efforts behind our recently published paper on the origin and spread of the Sino-Tibetan languages (Sagart et al. 2019) was the creation of a database of lexical cognates which was used to run the phylogenetic analyses. The creation of this database started about four years ago, when I joined the Centre des Recherches Linguistiques sur l’Asie Oriental in Paris as a research fellow in January 2015, and Guillaume Jacques and Laurent Sagart approached me with the idea of making a phylogenetic study of Sino-Tibetan languages. In December 2017, almost three years after having started, our database consisted of 180 concepts translated into 50 different languages. Since creating the database was not directly straightforward from the beginning, with quite a few situations in which we realized we had to re-arrange the data or the procedure, I thought it might be useful to share our experience in a series of blog posts, as it might be interesting for scholars who wish to create their own database.