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family-tree theory

[fam-uh-lee tree, fam-lee-]
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noun Historical Linguistics.
  1. a theory that describes language change in terms of genetically related languages developing in successive splits from a common parent language, such as Indo-European, as depicted by a family tree diagram.
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Compare wave theory.

Origin of family-tree theory

First recorded in 1930–35
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018