There was an article published with a diagram showing Lexical Difference: http://elms.wordpress.com/2008/03/04/lexical-distance-among-languages-of-europe/.

It cites a Russian source "K. Tyshchenko (1999), Metatheory of Linguistics." I can 't find the source. What I would really would like to know is how "lexical difference" is determined.

Another source http://www.ethnologue.com/language/eng says english is "Lexical similarity: 60% with German, 27% with French, 24% with Russian."[1] However, how is this calculated?

The reason I would like to know this is I am attempting to write a program using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to compare languages to English. There are a lot of considerations when comparing two different languages: similarity of words, frequency of use, structure of language, ... the list goes on. A lot of these metrics can be determined using widely available models; however, what I do not know, what metrics matter in regards to understanding what languages have similar cultural backgrounds? I am open to other research as well as opinions on what matters when comparing two languages.

[1] "Lexical similarity. The percentage of lexical similarity between two linguistic varieties is determined by comparing a set of standardized wordlists and counting those forms that show similarity in both form and meaning. Percentages higher than 85% usually indicate a speech variant that is likely a dialect of the language with which it is being compared. Unlike intelligibility, lexical similarity is bidirectional or reciprocal." ref http://www.ethnologue.com/about/language-info#Dialects

  • Don't use that chart. It likely uses reasonable quantitative measures (though I agree they aren't obvious), but more importantly, it's misleadingly drawn. Clearly linear distance is important in presentation, but the distance between nodes is variable, and is not labelled.
    – jlawler
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 16:17
  • Ok. I am still digging for those quantitative measures. This wikipedia article may be part of my answer en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… However; It looks like I will need a linguist to make "cognancy decisions".
    – brianray
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


The source of that chart is not Russian, but Ukrainian, it is K. Тищенко. Метатеорія мовознавства, 2000. As you can see, it's available online as a site, but it obviously lacks many illustration pictures. Professor Kostyantyn Tyshchenko is the author of more than 180 publications on different languages and on various branches of linguistics, so, taking into account the inaccuracy of the data about the source of the chart on the site you gave your first link to, one can suppose that the chart can actually be from some other publication by Tyshchenko.

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